Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs opponent preview: 49ers, Week 7

When they play: Week 7 (Oct. 23) in Santa Clara.

2015 record: 5-11.

Last time vs. Bucs: The 49ers beat the Bucs 33-14 in Tampa in Dec. 2013, leading 20-14 in the fourth before finishing the game on a 13-0 run in the final five minutes.

2016 outlook: It isn't long ago the 49ers were leading in the fourth quarter of the 2013 NFC title game. They'd lose to Seattle, then fade down the stretch in 2014, then struggle under Jim Tomsula, and now they'll likely challenge Cleveland for the worst record in the NFL. How much can Chip Kelly turn things around if he's choosing between Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick?

Player to watch: LB NaVorro Bowman is a four-time first-team All-Pro -- is this the year he returns to his dominating 2013 form, when he had six (!) forced fumbles, five sacks and returned an interception for a touchdown? After missing 2014 with injury, he showed he can be a prolific tackler again last season.

Rookie to watch: Who knew Kelly would stock up on Oregon ... defensive linemen? First-rounder DeForest Buckner joins another former Duck in Arik Armstead in what could get back to the game-changing front seven that Patrick Willis and others shined with only a few years ago.

Key matchup: RB Carlos Hyde vs. opposing defenses. He had such a promising start to 215 -- 168 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-3 win against the Vikings. He wouldn't top 100 again, and only topped 60 yards once, gone after seven games with a foot injury. He's shown what he can do when healthy.

Familiar face: Does Chip count? Absent that, we'll go with OLB Aaron Lynch, the former USF defensive end who's shown flashes of real promise (12.5 sacks in two seasons) and more trouble, like the four-game suspension he'll serve to open the season.

Cool stat: How bad was the 49ers offense last year? Dead last with 14.9 points per game. They scored seven points or less four times in the first eight games, got to 20 points just three times all season, with a max of 27. Second-worst in total offense, too, at 303.8 yards per game.

Comments
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