Here are my three key matchups for the Bucs-49ers game when the Bucs are on defense.
Michael Bennett vs Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis was a high first-round draft pick one year ago, but has struggled at right tackle throughout his career so far. Michael Bennett had a breakout performance last game, and could add to his soaring stock by embarrassing Anthony Davis. Bennett certainly has the skills to do so.
If Bennett can get past Davis with some regularity, he can disrupt the 49ers' running game as well as their passing game. Alex Smith does not react well to being pressured, and has been sacked an incredible 14 times this season. It's the perfect setup for Michael Bennett to have a big day, and he should take advantage.
Ronde Barber and Sean Jones vs Vernon Davis
Vernon Davis is easily the 49ers' most dangerous receiving weapon, and the Bucs are likely to use Ronde Barber and Sean Jones to match up with the tight end, depending on the exact personnel package. Shutting Davis down will shut down most of the 49ers' passing game.
Of course, that's easier said than done. And when the 49ers go to their two-tight end sets with Delanie Walker, they can create some real matchup issues for the Bucs defense. How the Bucs handle those two pass-catchers could determine the game.
Mason Foster vs Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter
The 49ers' running game hasn't done much this season, but did have a very good second half against the Philadelphia Eagles. The 49ers want to run their offense Gore and Hunter, so to stop that offense, the Bucs will need to stop that running game.
Mason Foster has had a good start to his career, and has really excelled the past two games. But can the rookie continue to do so against a run-first offense that had some success in their last game?