Week 11: Sunday, November 19, vs Tampa Bay, 4:05 PM ET/1:05 PM PT
The Bucs are going to be bad in 2023 as they look to rebuild after a few years of contention with Tom Brady at the helm.
They still have some decent skill position players with wide receiver Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and Tristan Wirfs standing in as one of the league’s best offensive tackles. But trusting all that to quarterback Baker Mayfield feels a lot like driving a fancy new sports car and then letting your grandmother, who simply refuses to go a tick above 30 miles per hour, drive it.
The defense has also fallen apart since their Super Bowl win a few seasons ago, although it still has good players like cornerback Carlton Davis III, defensive tackle Vita Vea, linebacker Devin White, and EDGE rusher Shaq Barrett.
Still, I wouldn’t expect much from this Bucs team even in a weak NFC South where pretty much every team is in some form of rebuild mode.
The 49ers should win this one on the strength of its defense and doing enough on offense to win.
Week 12: Thursday, November 23, at Seattle, 8:20 PM ET/5:20 PM PT
The Seahawks figure to be the 49ers’ main competitor in the NFC West again, after surprising the entire NFL by pushing the Niners for the division and eventually making the playoffs in 2022.
The NFL seems to be aware of this, hence the scheduling of these two teams in close proximity, just like in 2022, but this time much later in the season. Thus begins the 49ers' toughest stretch, starting with this Thanksgiving night matchup in the Pacific Northwest.
It all comes down to whether quarterback Geno Smith’s breakout season was a sign of things to come or a flash in the pan because Seattle has a solid group of receivers in DJ Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and 2023 NFL Draft first-rounder Jaxson Smith-Njigba alongside second year running back Kenneth Walker III.
The defense should also be improved with 2023 first-round cornerback Devon Witherspoon joining returning linebacker Bobby Wagner and Devin Bush and safety Jamal Adams holding down that side of the ball.
Chances are high each team wins on its home field, although expect close games unless Geno Smith turns out to not be the guy the Seahawks saw last year