The Bucs keep hanging around the NFC playoff picture, while the 49ers badly need another win to make a push in the NFC West. This game is a tale of how pre-season predictions hold no merit as the 49ers were suppose to be a legitimate contender amongst the NFC ranks while the Buccaneers were not suppose to have playoffs in their vocabulary as this was projected as another building season. No matter the case, these two clubs would make things a whole lot easier for themselves in their attempts to make the playoffs if they can find a win in Candlestick. The impressive and resurgent (6-3) Tampa Buccaneers travel to the west coast to clash with the hopeful (3-6) San Francisco 49ers, kickoff slated for 4:05 PM EST. QB’s Josh Freeman and Troy Smith look like athletic, natural-born playmakers at QB, while WR’s Mike Williams and Michael Crabtree look like strong, athletic playmakers at receiver. This will be a nice road test for the young Bucs. These two clubs last played on December 23, 2007, when the 49ers beat the Bucs, 21-19, in San Francisco. All-time, the Niners are 15-3 versus Tampa Bay.
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers produced a 3-13 regular season record in their first season under head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik. The Bucs were quiet in the free agency, but upgraded their roster with a strong draft. The Bucs took two defensive tackles with their top two picks. With the third-overall pick the Bucs took Gerald McCoy and used their second-round pick on Brian Price. Wide receivers Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams were taken in the second and fourth round respectively. While Troy Smith has helped the 49ers move within two games of the West lead and inch closer to their first playoff appearance since 2002, Freeman has raised expectations for a franchise targeting its first postseason berth in three seasons. Selected in the first round last year, the former Kansas State standout has led fourth-quarter comebacks in six of his nine career victories, and he has 12 TDs with just five interceptions this season. Freeman threw for 241 yards with two TDs and no interceptions in Sunday’s 31-16 victory over Carolina, recording the best passer rating (134.2) of his career. Josh Freeman has led five game-winning or game-tying drives since 2009 Week 16, tied for the most in the NFL. Undrafted rookie LeGarrette Blount has rushed for three TDs and 329 yards during that stretch, forcing Cadillac Williams into mostly pass-blocking duties. The veteran back, though, proved he can still contribute with the ball, running for 62 yards, including a 45-yard TD last Sunday. Over the last four weeks, LaGarrette Blount has rushed for 329 yards, fifth in the NFL, despite coming off the bench in all four games. In their 31-16 win over the Panthers last week, the Bucs posted a season-high 421 yards of offense, and their 186 rushing yards were the club’s most on the ground in 25 games under Raheem Morris.
The 49ers have won three of their last four games and are creeping back into the wide-open NFC West race. The 49ers had high expectations to make a playoff run this year, but got off to a slow start. San Francisco lost their first five games of the season, but have bounced back to win three of their last four games. Their one loss in the last month was a 23-20 loss at Carolina. Last week the 49ers beat the Rams 23-20 in overtime at home. The catalyst has been Troy Smith. The 2006 Heisman Trophy winner turned backup quarterback got his chance to start when Alex Smith got hurt and it doesn’t look like Troy will give the job back. In his two starts, Troy Smith has led the 49ers to two victories. And it’s not like he’s just playing game manager. Smith has thrown for 552 yards over that span with no turnovers. Like Freeman, he’s showing a knack for clutch performances, having led fourth-quarter scoring drives in both games. Led by ultra-talented and physical linebacker Patrick Willis, San Francisco’s “D” has really turned around during its surge. Over the last four games, the 49ers have held opponents to 322 total yards and 17 points per contest. On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers are 20th in red zone defense while the Bucs are 19th. The big difference between the two is that the 49ers rank in the top third of the league in red zone rush defense and bottom third in red zone pass defense, while the Bucs are a little more balanced between their rankings (17th and 20th). Neither team is particularly solid in red zone defense so that makes this all the more interesting to watch on Sunday. After beating Denver, 24-16, in London in Week 8, the Niners enjoyed a bye week before hanging on to defeat the Rams, 23-20, last Sunday. San Francisco has won three of its last four games after starting out 0-5. Frank Gore is the only player who has been responsible for more than 40 percent of his team’s offense this season. So, the 49ers will be entering another must-win game this Sunday and will do so knowing that that the NFC West leading Seahawks will be playing the defending Superbowl champs in Louisiana, so there is a good chance they could find themselves a game out of first.
Buccaneers vs 49erss Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3.5
@ San Francisco 49ers -3.5
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Buccaneers vs 49ers Predictions for Week 11:
Game Total Prediction (TOP PLAY) – The game plan this week going in for both clubs will be to limit the opportunities each quarterback has with the ball and to force each team to run the ball. Both quarterbacks are gifted individuals that can hurt you in many ways so it will be imperative for the respective defenses to force the game into the hands of the running backs. It is always tough on a team traveling from the east coast to the west coast, since 1999 games that have one team traveling from one coast to the opposing coast for a game see the UNDER 72% of the time. The key to Tampa’s success this season is playing a well orchestrated and heavily scripted game plan that limits the time the opposing team has on offense. This means that the Bucs rely heavily on the run to milk the clock and control the time of possession. The total has gone UNDER in 11 of Tampa Bay’s last 16 games. The 49ers seem to lock down defensively at home as the total has gone UNDER in 6 of San Francisco’s last 9 games at home. These two teams have an extensive history of playing UNDER ball when facing off against each other. Who can forget the classic NFC wildcard matchup between these two clubs in 2003 when the 49ers were held to 6 points and the total fell way under the posted total of 39. In fact, the total has gone UNDER in 5 of San Francisco’s last 6 games when playing Tampa Bay and has gone UNDER in 5 of San Francisco’s last 7 games when playing at home against Tampa Bay. Take a look at the UNDER when these two teams square off in the historic confines of Candlestick Park.
Spread Prediction – The Buccaneers have been, arguably, the most surprising story of this 2010 season thus far. They were absolutely abysmal just one season ago under first year coach Raheem Morris, as season which garnered them the third overall selection in last springs entry draft (Gerald McCoy). This year has witnessed this team grow in leaps and bounds and sophomore quarterback Josh Freeman looks like he is an elite franchise pivot. The Bucs match up quite nicely against the 49ers, they pose many challenges offensively against the small 49ers defense. I look for rookie sensation RB LeGarrette Blount to have a field day against a banged up and relatively weak defensive front for the 49ers. Since opening with five losses, San Francisco has fought back into the NFC West race by winning three of four. Troy Smith, signed six days before the 49ers’ season opener, has been a major contributor during this turnaround. Yet, I do see a let down performance today as the 49ers have been riding the wave of two emotionally guided wins the previous couple of weeks. San Francisco is 3-6 SU in its last 9 games and are 4-8 ATS when coming off a win over a divisional rival over the last two years. The Bucs seem to be traveling quite well this campaign, Tampa Bay is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games on the road. I expect a defensive struggle for most of this game and I believe the winning team will do so by a late field goal. The Bucs are trying to win four road games for the first time since going 5-3 in 2005. We will consider grabbing the points with the visiting Bucs as they will keep this game close in an attempt of escaping the west coast with a much needed victory. Cheers!