It’s been less than a year since the 49ers and Buccaneers last met up at Levi’s Stadium. San Francisco rolled in Week 14 last season when Tampa Bay visited the Bay Area for Brock Purdy’s first-career start.
While less than a year has passed since that 35-7 49ers victory, a lot has changed since that game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
To get an idea of what’s happening with the 49ers’ Week 11 opponent. we reached out to Bucs Wire managing editor River Wells to chat about the matchup:
Niners Wire: How's Baker Mayfield been on a scale of 1-10?
River Wells: Probably around a 6.5? Mayfield has played the best football he has in years with the Bucs, but he remains inconsistent. His leadership skills are fantastic and he’s done well to limit turnovers this year, but his deep ball remains woeful. He’s playing well, but I think there’s still a question of whether or not the Bucs should re-sign him in the offseason depending on how this season goes.
NW: Why do you think the Bucs have struggled to run the ball?
RW: There are plenty of reasons, but the biggest one is the interior defensive line. The lineup of rookie Cody Mauch, backup center Robert Hainsey and either Matt Feiler or Aaron Stinnie is very weak, and it’s made it almost impossible for the Bucs to run effectively. On top of that, while Rachaad White has been solid, the rest of Tampa Bay’s running backs have been deplorable — RBs Sean Tucker, Chase Edmonds and Ke’Shawn Vaughn have combined for 94 yards on 53 carries. Ouch.
NW: What's the biggest strength of Tampa Bay's defense?
RW: Probably the interior defensive line. Vita Vea is a monster, but rookie Calijah Kancey has also done well since returning from injury and has shaped up to be quite the pass rusher. Aside from that, safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is playing at an All-Pro level this year.
NW: The Bucs started 3-1 ... what happened?
RW: This is obviously up for interpretation by other pundits and fans, but I believe that the team wasn’t fraudulent at the beginning of the year — they got worse. The team was great at limiting penalties early but has been one of the most penalized teams in the league since the bye and also became one of the NFL’s worst passing defenses. Because Mayfield is so inconsistent, he’ll have some good games and then some bad ones, and that’s caused a volatile team this year.
NW: What's Tampa's path to an upset?
RW: Oh, boy. Tampa Bay will have to play disciplined football, avoid third and long scenarios on offense and not get overwhelmed by all the weapons on defense. The offense will probably have to put up more than 25 points to win this one, but they’ve struggled with that in the past, and the defense will probably have to stop the 49ers from running a balanced offense with Christian McCaffrey and Brock Purdy.
NW: Hit me with a prediction!
RW: Since they probably won’t do all those things, though, I think the 49ers readily take this one at home. 49ers 31, Bucs 19.