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Bucs-49ers: Predictions for Tampa Bay’s 1 p.m. game Sunday

The Tampa Bay-San Francisco matches teams with the fewest takeaways in the NFL.
Bucs receiver Mike Evans scored only his second touchdown in seven weeks against the Giants last week. He and the Buccaneers face the San Francisco 49ers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
Bucs receiver Mike Evans scored only his second touchdown in seven weeks against the Giants last week. He and the Buccaneers face the San Francisco 49ers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published November 24 2018

Here are the Times' Bucs coverage team's predictions for Tampa Bay's 1 p.m. game Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium:

Nothing could be finer than to beat the 49ers

Rick Stroud, Bucs beat writer @NFLStroud: The 49ers are down to their third quarterback and have to travel across country for this one, albeit after a bye week. Jameis Winston gets the biggest re-start of his career. It's so important that it's hard to imagine he will mess this up. Tampa Bay can still score points even without O.J. Howard. The defense plays better at home. Prediction: Tampa Bay 28-24

Home cooking

Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer, @EddieintheYard: You always have to think that West Coast teams traveling cross country are already at a disadvantage. And the 49ers are 0-5 on the road this season, though their last three road losses were all decided by three points or less. Here's the big stat: The Bucs have thrown 23 interceptions, but the 49ers have recorded just two picks all season. Here's saying the Bucs finally get an early lead they can build on instead of playing from behind, and then hold on at the end to win a one-score game. Prediction: Tampa Bay 34-28

Make-or-break time for Winston

Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter, @tometrics: The Bucs have a prime opportunity to make a move here — not up the NFL standings, but up the 2019 draft board. What's best for the organization, though, isn't necessarily what's best for its current players and coaches. Winston has the most at stake. Since 2015, he has had 16 multi-interception games, more than anyone else. Will Sunday against the 49ers be No. 17? It shouldn't be. You might have heard San Francisco has intercepted only two passes ALL SEASON. Prediction: Tampa Bay 23-14

Just like old times

Tom Jones, columnist @tomwjones: Welcome back, Jameis. You get the feeling that if Winston even comes CLOSE to throwing an interception, Dirk Koetter might kick him off the team right then and there. So I would expect Winston to be extra cautious. If the Bucs can take care of the football (and that's a big IF) then they should get back in the win column with relative ease. Prediction: Tampa Bay 34-23

Close, again

Martin Fennelly, columnist @mjfennelly: Mullens to Kittle? Yes. Winston and the Bucs will move the ball (the 49ers have fewer takeaways then the Bucs, if such a thing is possible.)  But the 49ers should score almost at will against the dispirited Bucs defense. Close game, but the Bucs seem to be in the pipe for not making the plays when they matter. Prediction: San Francisco 30-27

The skid stops here, or it doesn’t

Ernest Hooper, metro columnist, @hoop4you: The Bucs have gone far and beyond "must-win" situations, but if they lose to a 2-8 San Francisco team led by a third-string quarterback, they won't win another game this season. Tampa Bay likely will be decided underdogs in their remaining five games after Sunday, but a couple of upsets might be possible if they can regain a modicum of confidence against the 49ers. It'll be a struggle, as with every 2018 game, but if the Bucs can catch a couple of breaks and find a degree of improvement on defense, they can pull out the victory. Prediction: Tampa Bay 34-33

Every possession ends with a kick

Mike Sherman, sports editor, @mikesherman: This one will decide second place in the two-week Giants-49ers-Bucs round robin. The stakes, however, feel much higher. Making certain that every Tampa Bay possession ends with a kick and Peyton Barber's name is called more than anyone else's will be a winning formula. Prediction: Tampa Bay 34-31.

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