The San Francisco 49ers are looking to put the 2018 season behind them as injuries derailed what could have been a promising campaign. However, the 49ers now have what they hope to be their franchise quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo healthy with eyes toward pushing the team back into playoff contention. This will need them to battle through a daunting NFC West before all of that, but Garoppolo’s return to the field could be a significant piece to pushing the team back into the postseason mix in 2019.
Like the 49ers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to do much of the same by leaving last year’s campaign behind them. The Buccaneers struggled to get any footing after a hot start with much of that coming from their lack of consistent play under center. This has put pressure on Jameis Winston to prove that he can be the answer at the position that can take Tampa Bay to the playoffs while giving them a reason to keep him in place as their franchise cornerstone.
With all of these storylines in play heading into Week 1 action, this sets up what could be a highly intriguing game on Sunday afternoon.
49ers’ success dependent on Jimmy Garoppolo
Heading into the 2018 season, the 49ers had much buzz around the team with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo set to head into his first full season with the franchise. However, this was abruptly ended after Garoppolo suffered a season-ending torn ACL against the Kansas City Chiefs in the third game of the season. With him back in the fold healthy this around, there has been some buzz around the franchise but some tempered expectations given that Garoppolo is coming off a significant injury that saw him struggle a bit in preseason action. He his first preseason action, he threw a pair of interceptions while there were reports surfacing that he had thrown five consecutive interceptions during a practice. That said, he did show progress in his comfort and his ability on the field with the more time that he got under his belt in preseason action. The 49ers’ level of success in 2019 looks to be largely on the shoulders of Garoppolo as he’s the key cog in the offensive puzzle. This has become even more the case with the team seeing running back Jerrick McKinnon head to the season-ending IR due to more issues flaring up regarding his surgically-repaired knee.
San Francisco does have some other pieces to build around while, it could see their running game become a tandem of offseason addition Tevin Coleman and Matt Brieda, who played well in McKinnon’s absence last year as he rushed for 832 yards on 153 carries that was good for 5.3 yards per attempt before the injury bug became a factor. Coleman held up his end of the deal with the Atlanta Falcons last year with Devonta Freeman out as he rushed for 800 yards along with hauling in 32 catches for 276 receiving yards. Garoppolo will also have the ability to lean on rising star tight end George Kittle, who has become one of the top receiving threats at his position in his first two years. This saw Kittle set the all-time single season mark for tight ends with 1,377 yards on 88 receptions and five touchdowns. All of this should seemingly come into play in Week 1 as the 49ers are going up against the Buccaneers defense that struggled last year ranking 31st allowing 29.0 points per contest and 26th overall. This should be the difference in the contest that will allow for the 49ers move forward.
Bucs hoping to finally break through
Like the 49ers, the Buccaneers are entering the 2019 season with plenty of hope that they can finally break through. These struggles have been going on a bit longer for Tampa Bay having last been in the playoffs dating back to 2007. It has simply been a struggle for the franchise to get over the hump toward being a serious threat to contend for the postseason, but things haven’t unfolded in that manner. The hope was that quarterback Jameis Winston would be the franchise quarterback that finally solves that issue, but he has yet to prove that as he enters the fifth and final year of his rookie deal. Although new head coach Bruce Arians has voiced a strong level of confidence that Winston can get the job done, the team has yet to commit to a long-term deal with the former first overall pick. The 25-year-old has struggled both with consistency and staying on the field either due to injury or off-the-field issues. Winston had shown promise early on in his career, but he has stumbled over the last couple of years.
In the 2018 campaign, Winston played just 11 games where he threw for a career-low 2,992 yards with 19 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and held a 90.2 passer rating. He has struggled to prove that he can be that breakthrough talent with his arm as he struggled moving away from turnovers. However, the addition of Arians with his offensive scheme the hope is now that he can have a similar impact on him like did with Carson Palmer during his stint with the Arizona Cardinals. There are also some building blocks for the team to work with such as Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans, who has become one of the top players in the league at his position. Evans is coming off another strong campaign as he tallied 1,594 receiving yards on 86 receptions with eight touchdowns.
Meanwhile, there is a potential star in the making with speedy wideout Chris Godwin, who had 59 catches for 842 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season. There are still plenty of questions concerning their running game, which could become a lingering question as the season rolls on. Ultimately, the difference should prove to be the defense as it was their clear-cut weakness last year and could be early on with star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul out with a fractured neck. This will certainly be the difference in Week 1 against the 49ers.
- Buccaneers are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games on grass.
- 49ers are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games in Week 1.