The Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Santa Clara, California, on Sunday to face off against the San Francisco 49ers, who struggled to return to the win column after losing three straight games before their Week 9 bye.
Let’s see what we can expect from the Buccaneers in this week’s matchup.
Buccaneers at 49ers: Tampa Bay’s Keys to the Game
Feed the Receivers
The 49ers have one of the best rush defenses in the game, allowing just 748 rushing yards, 4 yards per carry, and 4 touchdowns over the season. However, that effectiveness on the ground has yet to translate to the air entirely; they have allowed a total of 1993 passing yards while also allowing 10 touchdowns and 5.8 yards per passing attempt. Moreover, veteran wide receiver Mike Evans had a monster game in Week 10, tallying 143 yards on six receptions and recording one of the team’s two touchdowns. Running back Rachaad White scored the other touchdown. Although he recorded only 51 yards on 20 rushing attempts, he scored 47 receiving yards on just two receptions for an average of 23.5 yards per catch, almost identical to Evans’ tally of 23.8 yards per catch.
Wide receiver Chris Godwin was not targeted as much as Evans was, but the young wideout has demonstrated time and time again what he is capable of. He ranks second on the team in receiving yards with 522 on 44 catches for an average of 11.9 yards per catch. White has also made some noise through the air, hauling 35 catches on 37 receptions for 329 yards. Tight end Cade Otton and wide receivers Trey Palmer and Deven Thompkins have also put up decent numbers on offense and could become more involved in the upcoming games.
The rushing game has been a recurring problem for the Bucs this season. Quarterback Baker Mayfield is currently second in that department with just 134 yards. Besides, the 49ers have some of the biggest names in the league on their secondary to defend the ground plays, including linebacker Fred Warner and defensive end Nick Bosa. It will be best for the Buccaneers to keep the air game rolling, as they will need more success on the ground.
Step Up on Defense
The 49ers have one of the best offenses in football right now. Quarterback Brock Purdy leads the league with a 76.2 quarterback rating while also sporting 2329 total yards, 15 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. At his disposal, he has one of the best receiving corps in all of football, featuring wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and tight end George Kittle, who has recorded 675 yards on 38 catches and 559 yards on 35 catches, respectively. In addition, wide receiver Deebo Samuel is coming back from an injury that has kept him sidelined since Week 6, and he will be ready to pick it up right where he left off. He has also seen his fair share of involvement in the ground game, totaling 124 yards on 21 carries for an average of 5.9 yards per carry.
Christian McCaffrey is the best running back in the league. He did not score in his team’s offensive explosion on Week 10 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he had set an all-time NFL record before that with 17 straight games scoring at least a touchdown. He has also been involved heavily in the passing game, ranking third on the team with 339 yards on 38 receptions. Guarding McCaffrey and all the other offensive weapons San Francisco has on offense will be critical for Tampa Bay in this matchup.
Prove Them Wrong
According to ESPN Analytics, the Buccaneers enter this game with an 18.7% chance to win. They possess a 4-5 record in one of the worst divisions in the NFL and play against an arguably top-five team, so they are certainly not favored to win this one. However, a solid win in Week 10 against the Tennessee Titans has them looking at a potential turnaround and could be the start of a winning streak as they advance. San Francisco will be more challenging than Tennessee, but there’s always a chance. It will be interesting to see how things play out on Sunday.