SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 21: LeGarrette Blount #27 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is tackled by the Ray McDonald #91 of the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on November 21 2010 in San Francisco California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SB Nation Tampa Bay previews the Bucs-Niners game.
Two evenly matched 3-1 ballclubs look to square off in San Francisco as the Bucs have to travel cross country on a short week and face a tough 49ers team bent on taking over the NFC West.
The Bucs are coming off their hard fought victory on Monday Night Football over the struggling Indianapolis Colts while The Niners return home after a two game road trip to Ohio and Philadelphia. In Philly, they shocked the dream team with a huge, unexpected comeback.
Can the Bucs shake off the Monday Night hangover? Are the Niners still feeling the effects of their recent road swing?
One of these football teams will walk out of Sunday with a very impressive 4-1 record.
The Bucs come in with 17th ranked passing offense in the NFL Bucs QB Josh Freeman continues to be a slow starter but his fourth quarter magic certainly gives his team the confidence to believe that if its close, FIVE will win it for them. Freeman's mobility is causing fits for opponents. Regus Benn and Mike Williams showed signs of coming out of their first quarter slumps while Preston Parker has emerged as a player Freeman can rely on.
The 49ers have been vulnerable against the pass, surrendering 284 yards a game (28th in the NFL). They have 9 sacks, led by veteran DE Ray McDonald's 2.5 sacks. They've also picked off 5 passes, led by DB 's Carlos Rogers and Tremaine Brock who have two each.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay Rushing Attack vs. San Francisco 49ers Run Defense
The nation saw what type of damage LeGarrette Blount can do to a defense. The Bucs' battering ram has guided Tampa Bay to the 11th best rushing attack in the NFL.
San Francisco has shut down the likes of Cedric Benson and LeSean McCoy en route to ranking 4th in the NFL in rushing defense. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman have made it extremely difficult on opposing offenses to sustain a steady rushing attack against San Francisco.
The Bucs pounded out 162 yards on the ground against San Francisco in their meeting last season (the Niners finished 2010 ranked 6th in the league against the run).
Advantage: San Francisco
San Francisco 49ers Passing Game vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Defense
Say what you will about Alex Smith, the Niners QB hasn't gotten his team beaten this year. Smith has transitioned into a Trent Dilfer-esque game manager, keeping his interceptions low while letting his running game and defense do the talking. The Niners' receiving core is a bit banged up as Braylon Edwards is out while Michael Crabtree will likely be a game time decision. San Francisco is just 29th in the league in passing.
The Buccaneers pass rush has significantly improved over the past couple of weeks and they've taken down quarterbacks 10 times this season. Unfortunately, Tampa Bay's secondary has struggled, surrendering 267 yards a game through the air (21st in the NFL) and managing just two interceptions on the season.
San Francisco Running Game vs. Tampa Bay Run Defense
With Frank Gore banged up and teams playing eight man fronts and daring Alex Smith to beat them, the running has been tough going for the 49ers. San Francisco is averaging just 3.4 yards a carry per rush and 93.2 yards a game on the ground (22nd in the NFL).
After a terrible start, the Buccaneers' defensive line resurgence has seen a dramatic impact on their run defense. After being near the bottom of the league rankings against the run for three years, Tampa Bay has skyrocketed to 11th against the run, surrendering just 101.0 yds per game on the ground.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
Connor Barth suffered his first miss of the season on Monday night but for the year he remains a solid 7-for-8 with a long of 49. Michael Koenen continues his solid season for the Bucs, punting for a 46.6 average and putting the ball inside the opponents' twenty yard line 6 times this season.
Preston Parker has been doing a solid job returning punts (10.6 yard average) and kicks (23.6).
Veteran kicker David Akers is 8-for-10 for the 49ers with a long of 55. Andy Lee continues to be one of the premier punters in the league, averaging an eye popping 52.2 yards per punt while pinning the opponent inside their 20 four times.
Ted Ginn, Jr. has already returned a kickoff and punt return for touchdowns this season and he's averaging 34.3 yds a kick return and 10.7 yds a punt return.
Advantage: San Francisco
Jim Harbaugh is in his first season with San Francisco, he's 3-1 so far.
Raheem Morris is in his third season with the Bucs, he's 16-20. His teams are 13-7 in the last 20 outings.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
By the Numbers
- San Francisco leads the all time series 15-5
- San Francisco is 11-2 at home versus the Buccaneers
- Last years' 21-0 shutout was Tampa Bay's first victory in San Francisco since 1980
- The Bucs are 3-23 all time in the state of California
- Tampa Bay has won 6 straight games and 8of their last 9 against NFC West opponents
- Tampa Bay has won 9 of their last 11 games on the road.
- San Francisco is tied for the NFL lead in turnover ratio with +8, Tampa Bay is +1.
- Tampa Bay is looking for it's first 4-1 start since 2005. San Francisco hasn't started 4-1 since 2002.
- Last ten winners of Monday Night Football are 5-5 the following week.
I think there's some major concerns here for the Buccaneers. Its a short week and a ridiculously long trip, its hard to imagine the Bucs humming on all cylinders for this football game. Luckily for them, the Niners are a bit banged up and coming off a two game road trip where they didn't return to San Francisco but stayed in Youngstown, Ohio between games.
The Niners are a quality football team that doesn't kill themselves. Tampa Bay's notorious slow starts could get them in trouble if it happens this week.
The Niners also remember the 21-0 can-o-whupass the Bucs put on them in their home stadium last year. San Fran will be determined not to have that happen again.
I think the Bucs will sleep walk through the first half and wake up a little to late to rally on the Niners. For the first time this season, I'm going against the Bucs.
Prediction: San Francisco 20, Tampa Bay 10
Who wins the big Bucs-Niners battle?
Tampa Bay (51 votes)
San Francisco (34 votes)
85 total votes