The 100th NFL season home opener is finally in view. Kicking off this Sunday at 4:25pm in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers welcome the 49ers into Raymond James Stadium. There is much anticipation surrounding this game, starting with Tampa’s legendary former safety, John Lynch, being San Francisco’s general manager.
As far as roster confidence goes, the 49ers have more consistency on both sides of the ball. Defensively San Francisco has one of the strongest front seven in league involving Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, Deforest Buckner and Solomon Thomas. Where as The Buccaneers, suffered defensively last year, being named one of the worst defenses, primarily due to a lot of injuries taking place early in the season. With that said, the Bucs also lost two of their top defensive players, Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander. As worried as that may have initially had many fans, the new and young Bucs defense has proven to be quite reliable this pre-season, especially in the red zone and 3rd down. Tampa Bay’s secondary looks to have solid match up capabilities utilizing their speed and quick vision on the field. The excitement for the Bucs newest defense leader, Ndamukong Suh, has been up in the air, but regardless of previous judgement of Suh, he is proven to be a very dominant player of defense with much strength and versatility for his frame. Suh can offer a lot on the Bucs defense, as he played many different positions for the Rams last season.
On the offensive side of the ball, there are still many questions regarding Jameis Winston and what he will learn and apply from new head coach, Bruce Arians. Winston has mentioned in press conferences that he has plays where he needs to get out of the pocket faster, but most of Winston’s trapped moments is due to lack of pass protection. Blaine Gabbert does offer more mobility at quarterback, but he is still questionable after a shoulder injury versus the Browns in pre-season. In this game, we will finally gage a better idea of the run game the Bucs are looking to establish, but it’s safe to say many eyes will be on Barber, granted the offensive line does their job. A positive note for Tampa Bay’s offensive is the strength they have in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, OJ Howard, and now potentially pre-season stand out tight end, Tanner Hudson. The Bucs are not short of offensive weapons, but the ball needs to make it to them. As for the 49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo is healthy, but getting back into the grove of things post surgically repairing his knee last season. San Francisco has a reliable run game in Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida and do not fall short on offensive weapons themselves in George Kittle, Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor.
This should be a neck and neck game, nothing short of entertaining with much talent on both teams. Winston carries more experience between the two quarterbacks, which can play in favorably, but Garoppolo has showed strong strides in his healthy playing time. More importantly this will be a great kickoff game to the 100th NFL season!