The PewterReport.com staff shares its thoughts on the upcoming Bucs game and pick who we think we win, including a score prediction and a pick-to-click – a Tampa Bay player we think will play really well. Let us know you thoughts and add your prediction in the comment section.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (0-0) VS. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (0-0)
WHEN: SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 4:25 P.M. ET
WHERE: RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM (65,618)
PLAY-BY-PLAY: KENNY ALBERT ANALYST: RONDE BARBER
SIDELINE: LINDSAY CZARNIAK
BUCS RADIO: 98ROCK, FLAGSHIP STATION (WXTB-97.9 FM)
PLAY-BY-PLAY: GENE DECKERHOFF ANALYST: DAVE MOORE
SIDELINE: T.J. RIVES
PewterReport.com Publisher / Senior Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
The last time the Buccaneers opened up their season at home against the San Francisco 49ers was in 1997 and that keyed a 5-0 run to begin a year that ended with a 10-6 record and a long-awaited playoff berth. Tampa Bay certainly hopes that happens again this season, and getting off to a good start with an opening day win always helps.
The Bucs have done well in season openers over the last three season openers, winning all three under former head coach Dirk Koetter. Tampa Bay has also won its last two home openers, including last year’s win over the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
The Bucs only won five games last year despite starting the year 2-0 with an opening day upset at New Orleans and the win over the Eagles at home, but one of those victories came against San Francisco, 27-9, and it happened to be the team’s biggest win in terms of margin of victory. The Bucs didn’t face quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo that day, nor did the 49ers have middle linebacker Kwon Alexander and pass rushing defensive end Dee Ford.
Yet Tampa Bay didn’t have Bruce Arians as head coach with defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, and those two new additions will make all the difference in the world this year for the men in red and pewter. Bowles’ blitzing scheme will harass Garoppolo into some mistakes and I expect the Bucs defense to carry the day while the offensive line struggles against the 49ers’ front four.
Bucs Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans should continue his dominance against cornerback Richard Sherman with Chris Godwin and tight ends O.J. Howard and Cam Brate working the seams down the middle of the field. Look for Peyton Barber to provide some balance in the running game as the Bucs will likely try to run right at the undersized Alexander and his surgically-repaired knee. Rookie kicker Matt Gay makes all of his kicks and the Bucs prevail in Week 1.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Buccaneers 20, 49ers 13
Reynolds’ Pick-To-Click: WR Mike Evans
PewterReport.com Editor / Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
Ah, the start of a brand new Bucs season. Optimism abounds, and every team is tied for home-field advantage through the playoffs with a 0-0 record. We have been here before with this Tampa Bay team – a lot. For there most part, the Bucs have let their fans down year after year. Will 2019 be different?
This team feels different than other Bucs teams I have covered. It appears to have direction, and that starts with Bruce Arians and his staff. There is a ton of NFL experience coaching this team and a lot of winning football.
But it all starts on Sunday when the 49ers come to what should be very hot and humid Raymond James Stadium. This has to play into the Buccaneers’ favor. The weather report in the “other” Bay area called for high temperatures through the weekend to be in the low-to-mid 70’s. Sunday in Tampa it is expected to be 93 degrees with a heat index over 100 degrees.
On the field, Tampa Bay has a lot to play for. First, to get the season started on there right foot and begin the year with some momentum. And the team wants to show the rest of the league they are capable of playing winning football. But that starts with beating teams you are better than.
The 49ers present some match-up issues, mainly their defensive line against the Bucs offensive line. This is where the game will be won or lost. If the Buccaneers can run the football well, give Jameis Winston some time, they will win on Sunday. It won’t be pretty at times, but that’s okay. No one cares how it happens as long as your team ends up with one more point than your opponent.
I expect Winston come out hyped and maybe a little erratic to start, but will settle down and end up having a similar game that he had against the 49ers last season when he threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. The game will stay close but the heat and the Bucs being at home will help Tampa Bay prevail in a close one.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Buccaneers 23, 49ers 20
Cook’s Pick-To-Click: QB Jameis Winston
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Reporter Trevor Sikkema
Every year around this time, a familiar smell comes through the air. No it’s not the gulf breeze, and you’re kidding yourself if you think we’re anywhere close to the beginning of real fall weather in Tampa Bay.
It’s the smell of hope.
The Buccaneers enter the 2019 season with a new captain of the ship. Head coach Bruce Arians brought along, not only his own experience, but a staff full of NFL experience. If you ask me, that has to be worth something, especially in the first game.
There are some unknowns on the Bucs side of things. How offensive coordinator and play caller Byron Leftwich will gel with quarterback Jameis Winston will mean a great deal. And with that, how Arians himself deals with not calling plays will be an element in the team’s success, too. But the Bucs have the horses on offense to win the race. It’s up to them to pick the right ones.
On defense, this group should give the team a better chance to win than the previous two seasons. If I had to watch Mike Smith’s soft coverage one more season I might have just told Scott and Mark to cover the team without me this year. Thankfully none of us have to watch that. I’m equal parts excited and also reserved as I go into watching what this Bucs defense will be in 2019.
As for their matchup on Sunday, the most impactful position battle will be the Bucs offensive line versus the 49ers defensive line. The Niners have five first round pass rushers on their line: Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas and Nick Bosa. The Bucs offensive line, on the other hand, features two guys from D-III schools, one from a D-II school, a 33-year-old right tackle and an icy hot left tackle. The Bucs offensive line will have to play as good as they ever have against the Niners. If they do, they’ve got a shot.
Another matchup I’m keeping my eye on is the one between Tampa’s receivers and San Francisco’s coverage unit. Akhello Witherspoon and Richard Sherman will be the two outside cornerbacks for the Niners. Witherspoon did not have a good season last year, and Sherman has clearly lost a step. The Bucs have a chance to capitalize on such a weak group with guys like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard.
There are matchups to like for both teams, and Tampa Bay’s youthful roster will need to grow up fast as the bullets of regular season action start flying. But, in a close game, I’ll pick them to win this one — if nothing else but because if thy don’t win, they could be in deep trouble with that early schedule.
Sikkema’s Score Prediction: Buccaneers 27, 49ers 24
Sikkema’s Pick-To-Click: Bucs Entire O-Line
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Taylor Jenkins
The Bucs enter 2019 with high expectations and a win-now mentality. Win now isn’t just a mentality, however, it’s also a bit of a necessity. With the addition of Bruce Arians and a complete overhaul of the coaching staff, Arians and Co. didn’t come to Tampa Bay to rebuild, they came to reload as the Bucs’ new head coach says.
Jameis Winston enters his this season on his fifth-year option and a new, lofty contract and the franchise’s future at the position in the balance. Despite this being his third head coach in five years, this is Winston’s best scenario to succeed if he ever will in a Bucs uniform. Winston has elite talent at wide receiver in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, he has two supremely talented tight ends in O.J. Howard and Cam Brate and he will likely have the best defense he’s seen throughout his time in the NFL on his side, if Todd Bowles’ and the Bucs’ young defense can even partially live up to their expectations.
On the other side of the field, Kyle Shanahan leads a 49ers squad into Tampa that really enters the game in a similar situation to the Bucs. Last year both quarterbacks missed time, with Winston being suspended before entering a quarterback carousel with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jimmy Garoppolo suffering a season-ending knee surgery. Both teams also have a very talented core despite each underperforming in the 2018 season, leading both to top-5 draft picks where the Bucs’ added Devin White, their new signal-caller on defense, and San Francisco adding Nick Bosa to an already great defensive line.
The key matchup on Sunday will be how the offensive line can stand up to Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, DeForest Bucker and Bosa. For the Bucs to take advantage of all the talent they have on offense, Winston will have to make good, quick decisions and be given enough time to move the ball more like they did against the Steelers on their first drive of the preseason and nothing like they did against the Browns in their third game.
Additionally, Sunday will be the first test for a young secondary where four of the Bucs’ five starters at cornerback and safety are first- or second-year players with two rookie second-string cornerbacks. The Bucs’ are stout up front, but Carlton Davis and Vernon Hargreaves keeping Marquise Goodwin and Donta Pettis under control will be major.
Jenkins’ Score Prediction: Buccaneers 27, 49ers 21
Jenkins’ Pick-To-Click: CB Vernon Hargreaves
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Matt Matera
This is bit of a different look then when the Bucs and 49ers met in week 12 of last season. For the Bucs, it’s an entirely new coaching staff with a new plan in place, for the 49ers, they get the return of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who missed almost all of last year with a torn ACL.
The utmost important factor for the Bucs on the offensive side of the ball is whether they’ll be able to protect Jameis Winston. The offensive line was manhandled in their preseason game against the Browns, and they face just a tough of a defensive front here with the likes of Dee Ford and Nick Bosa.
Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich have worked with Winston to make “money throws” and releasing the ball quickly, so that will be one way to combat against the pass rush. Starting a strong ground game will also slow down the San Francisco’s defensive line, and they should look to attack linebacker and former Buc Kwon Alexander, who might not be 100 percent yet.
I’m interested to see how impactful the duo of Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea will be up front on the Bucs’ defensive front. They haven’t played much together in the preseason with Vea’s knee injury keeping him out after week one of the preseason. They have a chance to cause real issues up front, which will only help Carl Nassib and Shaq Barrett on the end.
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has done a really good job shutting down teams so far, and it will help with getting back Vea along with linebacker Lavonte David. I expect the Bucs defense to limit the 49ers offense, especially with Garoppolo not playing for over a year. The Niners have speedy receivers and a top tight end with George Kittle, but the defense won’t let up a ton of points.
In the offseason, the biggest addition the Bucs wasn’t signing a player, it was bringing on a new coaching staff. This staff will also be the reason why the Bucs win on Sunday by getting their players to be at their best in the right position. It will be a close game, but the Bucs have already been tested with close games in the preseason, and that’s going to continue in the regular season. Rookie kicker Matt Gay is going to hit late a field goal like he has in preseason and seal the deal for the Bucs in their first game of the year.
Matera’s Final Score: Bucs 23 49ers 20
Matera’s Pick-To-Click: DT Ndamukong Suh