Week 7 versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, October 23 at 4:05 p.m. ET
New Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter, someone whom the 49ers had some interest last offseason, will have an intriguing start to his time at the helm here.
Tampa Bay is coming off a 6-10 finish and had about as up-and-down a season as one could project.
What the Bucs did well a year ago was move the ball on the ground — their 2,162 rushing yards ranked fifth in the NFL — and running back Doug Martin looked every part an All-Pro contributor.
So the story will be the same for San Francisco’s run defense. How well can this unit stack up against Martin and quarterback Jameis Winston’s own scrambling abilities? Winston, in year two of his pro career, figures to get wide receiver Mike Evans into the mix. Evans hasn’t lived up to his draft hype, after being selected seventh overall in 2014, and caught just 50 percent of balls thrown his way a year ago.
Why the 49ers Win
Tampa Bay’s offensive line has a few question marks entering this season, and it’s a unit that could go through some major changes between now and the regular season, per Conor Orr of NFL.com.
The first order of business for San Francisco’s defense will be halting Martin and keeping him from draining the clock.
There’s a lot of young up-and-coming talent with the Buccaneers, which isn’t totally unlike what the 49ers are facing right now. The Niners will have to exploit such weaknesses, and head coach Chip Kelly will have to outcoach Koetter, especially in the ground game.
As such, look for running back Carlos Hyde to have a big day.
Why the 49ers Lose
There’s a bit of a worrisome trend here — if opposing teams effectively run the ball against San Francisco, the Niners will be in trouble.
It’s something Chris Biderman of NinersWire.com pointed out not long ago.
Winston has all the intangibles to be a great quarterback in this league, and a questionable 49ers pass rush and secondary could be the formula for the young signal-caller to have one of those signature “this is who I’m gonna be” games.
Next: Week 9 vs. New Orleans Saints