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Bucs-49ers picks: Predicting the start of the Arians era

Here’s our predictions for the Bucs-49ers game Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
Vita Vea, shown in this Nov. 25, 2018, file photo celebrating a Bucs defensive stop in a 27-9 win over the 49ers, is expected to be healthy and ready when Tampa Bay opens the season at home Sunday against San Francisco.
Vita Vea, shown in this Nov. 25, 2018, file photo celebrating a Bucs defensive stop in a 27-9 win over the 49ers, is expected to be healthy and ready when Tampa Bay opens the season at home Sunday against San Francisco. [ Times ]
Published Sept. 7, 2019

Rick Stroud, Bucs beat writer @NFLStroud: I don’t see either team running away with this game. The Bucs offensive line will have trouble handling a pass rush with Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner, Shelton Day and Nick Bosa with Solomon Thomas coming off the bench. The combination of rush and pass coverage, with Richard Sherman on Mike Evans, could be effective unless the Bucs can run the football. Evans has had success versus Sherman in the past. But Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cam Brate might have some matchups to exploit. Rookie Matt Gay will need a field goal at the end to cap off the best week of his life after the birth of his son. Bucs 24-23.

Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer, @EddieintheYard: The last time we saw the Bucs first-team offense, it struggled to keep Jameis Winston upright. The 49ers defensive front resembles the one the Bucs struggled to contain in Week 3 of the preseason. In this offense, Winston will have to make quick decisions or lose trying. I’m more interested in seeing how the Todd Bowles Bucs defense debuts against Jimmy Garoppolo, who could be jittery in his return from knee surgery. 49ers 24-21.

John Romano, columnist @romano_tbtimes: I’ll buy the hype. Just this week. And just because it’s a crummy opponent. But I’ll buy the Bruce Arians hype and say the Bucs will enter 2019 with a renewed focus and swagger. I’m betting the offense will be more efficient, and the defense will not spring fourth-quarter leaks. For now, it’s a pity pick. We’ll reserve judgment for Week 2. Bucs 27-21.

Martin Fennelly, columnist @mjfennelly: The 49ers have had rocky preseason. That and playing in an early September sauna help the Bucs start 1-0 to kick off the Arians era. Bucs 30-27.

Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter, @tometrics: Forget Tampa Bay’s 29-7 thumping of San Francisco last season. Delete it from your memory, like Nick Bosa deleted his political tweets. With a healthy Garoppolo, this is a different 49ers team than the one that lost all of its road games last season. Here’s one thing you can expect: overreaction. If the Bucs win, they will be playoff-bound. Just like they were after they won their opener in 2016. And 2017. And 2018. If they lose, they will be doomed. There are no must-wins in Week 1, but Tampa Bay needs this one. The Bucs will have only three days of rest before their next game, against the Panthers in Charlotte. Bucs 23-20.

Ernest Hooper, columnist/assistant sports editor, @hoop4you: Predicting that a defense ranked 31st in 2018 will limit a team to six points may seem folly, but I’m totally convinced Bowles’ defense will be stout with Garoppolo trying to regain his sea legs. The Bucs’ offensive line remains unproven and it’ll need to run the ball to keep the San Francisco pass rush honest. Bucs 7-6.


Bucs Preview 2019

A look ahead at Bruce Arians’ first year in Tampa Bay and a critical season for Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers.