The long wait is over. The NFL is back.
So are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who face off against the San Francisco 49ers in a home-opener that is bound to have some exciting plays.
This year’s matchup will be vastly different than last year’s. The Bucs have a completely new coaching staff and the 49ers have Jimmy Garoppolo, who was absent for the previous meeting.
Kyle Shanahan is one of the best offensive minds in the league, but Todd Bowles is one of the best defensive minds. Watching those two go head-to-head will be one of the more exciting aspects of Week 1.
- All-time series record: The 49ers lead the series, 17-6, but the Bucs have won the past two meetings. The most recent victory was a 27-9 drubbing in 2018. The Bucs are 3-5 at home and 3-12 on the road.
- Playoff history: Both teams have met only once and it was Tampa Bay’s 31-6 win during the 2002 Super Bowl run. The win marked the first - and only - postseason game in which the 49ers did not score an offensive touchdown.
- Longest win streak: San Francisco won nine straight games from 1983-1994.
- Largest victory: The 49ers decimated the Bucs, 48-3, in 2011.
What To Watch For
- The Bruce Arians Effect: We will get our first real glimpse of what this team will look under the guidance of Arians.
- Bucs’ offensive line vs. 9ers’ defensive line: This is easily the biggest matchup of the game and will likely determine who wins.
- Mike Evans vs. Richard Sherman: These two have gone at it in the past and Evans has won every time. Will that continue?
- George Kittle: He is a matchup nightmare and is the 49ers’ best player on offense.
- Tampa Bay’s defense: The unit is pretty much fully intact, sans Jason Pierre-Paul, but face a stiff challenge in a Shanahan-coached offense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- QB Jameis Winston: He played well in the preseason, now it’s time to see how he performs in real time.
- WR Mike Evans: The Bucs’ best offensive player will be needed on Sunday.
- TE O.J. Howard: He should thrive over the middle on Sunday.
- DT Vita Vea: The 9ers didn’t have an answer for him last year. Will that change this year?
- ILB Lavonte David: His speed will be needed against a 49ers offense that likes to take advantage of space.
- S Jordan Whitehead: You could easily make a case that Whitehead had the best preseason, but can he keep it up during the regular season?
San Francisco 49ers
- QB Jimmy Garoppolo: He needs to prove he is “the guy” this year and will be under the microscope from day one.
- RB Tevin Coleman: He knows Shanahan from their days with the Falcons and Coleman had his best year under him in 2016.
- TE George Kittle: Arguably the best tight end in the league. Kittle is going to be a tough matchup.
- DE Dee Ford: Can one of San Fran’s newest pass rushers make a difference?
- LB Kwon Alexander: This is his first game back from tearing his ACL last year when he played for the Bucs.
- CB Richard Sherman: The 49ers’ best corner has had his fair share of troubles with Evans over the years. Will they continue Sunday?
- Winston has 14,628 career passing yards and needs 193 more to pass Vinny Testaverde (14,820 from 1987-92) for the most passing yards in franchise history.
- TE Cameron Brate has three career games with multiple touchdown receptions. He needs one more to tie Jimmie Giles for the most ever such games by a Buccaneers tight end and tie for the third-most such games in franchise history.
- Evans has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first five seasons and, with 1,000 or more receiving yards this season, will join Randy Moss (1998-2003) as the only players in NFL history to record 1,000 or more receiving yards in each of their first six seasons. Evans would extend his team record for 1,000-yard receiving seasons and consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
- Evans has recorded 395 career receptions and needs 36 more to pass James Wilder (430 from 1981-89) for the most receptions in franchise history.
*Stats courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Communications Department
This game started out as a pick ‘em, but the Bucs are now favored (-1) to win the game. It makes complete sense. On paper, both teams match up pretty well, yet no one really knows what to expect from either team.
What we do know is that Shanahan will certainly have some creative calls dialed up and it will be up to Bowles to shut it down. Both coaches have one of the best mindsets in the game when it comes to their respective positions, so expect a back-and-forth battle between San Fran’s offense and Tampa Bay’s defense.
The heat will factor in, as well. It’s going to be hot.
I would love to say, “if the Bucs play their game, they should win”, but we really don’t know what Tampa Bay’s game is just yet. Regardless, this staff should have these guys ready to play in front of the home crowd on opening day.