Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- This is a game between two teams that lead their division, but are facing a lot of question marks late in the season.
- The 49ers are down to their third string quarterback, Brock Purdy, and will have to ride him for the rest of the season.
- The Bucs are playing off a short week after pulling off a dramatic come from behind victory on Monday night.
- This is a matchup of two very good defenses facing offenses that have many issues, which is shown by this game’s second lowest over/under on the slate.
How Tampa bay Will Try To Win ::
The Bucs rank sixth in the NFL in both situation-neutral pace of play and pass rate over expectation, yet 27th in the NFL in points per game. This shocking lack of efficiency comes on the heels of the Bucs sporting one of the top offenses in the league since Tom Brady arrived in 2020. A big part of the issue has been the offensive line, which has not provided the high level of protection against pass rushes this year that it has in the past and can’t get much of a push in the running game. This has forced a lot of the Bucs passing game to be focused on the short areas of the field to keep Brady upright and resulted in Tampa Bay ranking bottom-three in the NFL by most rushing efficiency metrics.
On the surface, this matchup for the Bucs offense is very difficult. The 49ers boast one of the top defensive units in the league and have been stellar in nearly every game this year. The one thing about this matchup for the Bucs is they already can’t run the ball, so facing the No. 1 run defense in the league should make it relatively easy for them to bypass even trying in this spot. Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White are splitting the running back duties now, and the duo should see a healthy dose of targets in this game after combining for 12 receptions against the Saints on Monday night. Also, stud wide receiver Chris Godwin appears at or near full strength again in his return from last season’s ACL tear, but his role has changed to basically an extension of the running game as he is bottom-10 in the NFL in average depth of target for receivers. Further highlighting the lack of big plays from the Bucs, red zone and deep threat specialist Mike Evans has not scored a touchdown since Week 4. The Bucs will likely have to pass often in this game and that passing will primarily be short area work trying to matriculate the ball down the field as they will become relatively predictable for their opponent, who also has some stellar pass rushers. The 49ers play primarily zone coverage, meaning Godwin, the running backs, and the tight ends should be heavily targeted in short areas of the field as they try to sit in holes in coverage for easy completions. While this 49ers pass defense was beaten handily by the Chiefs and had some struggles containing the Dolphins last week, the Bucs passing game is no longer on the same level as those teams and will likely struggle to string together first downs.
How san francisco Will Try To Win ::
- Godwin has seen recent target counts (starting from Week 6) of 12 // 13 // 11 // 10 // 8 // 13 // 13, making it stunning that he has topped 19.1 DraftKings points only once in this stretch, and has topped 15.5 only twice. The 49ers have been bottom-five in slot production allowed over the last month and a half, and it’s unlikely the Bucs decide that testing San Francisco on the ground is their best means of winning this game, all of which points toward another high-volume game from Godwin. He’s the only piece on the Bucs who is interesting to me. I believe I have only played Godwin once during this stretch of high-volume popularity (when I was mixing and matching Bucs stacks against the Steelers way back in Week 6), so it’s hard for me to see myself pulling the trigger on tighter builds against an elite defense that isn’t likely to give up a ton of points to the Bucs — but on this “small slate that feels even smaller,” Godwin is at least a guy I’m seeing. I’ll probably build in a bit of exposure to him in large-field play. Outside of Godwin, I expect to leave the Bucs alone.
- You could make a case for literally any of the elite weapons on the 49ers, but I’m likely to avoid these guys on tighter builds and use them only sparingly in large-field play. The player who most draws my eye is Christian McCaffrey (he requires the least to go right in order to hit), but given the matchup and the quarterback situation, it’s still hard to see a “had to have it” score at his price tag.
- I do like both defenses in this game — but outside of those units, on tighter builds, I’m likely to stay away.
MIKE JOHNSON >>
It’s hard to see this game turning into a shootout, but there are some big names at reasonable price tags who could hit in a big way. On the San Francisco side:
- Christian McCaffrey is in an elite role once again. Assuming full health, his workload is as great as any running back on the slate. Running back isn’t a spot I’m looking to pay up for on Draftkings this week, but CMC is certainly viable in tournaments there and I am especially high on him on Fanduel.
- Deebo Samuel is in a spot to potentially pop after having great usage a week ago. His price has declined significantly from its peak and we know Deebo is capable of big plays.
- George Kittle’s price is shockingly low and he shouldn’t have much ownership. While his usage last week wasn’t great, after a week of practice with Purdy and head coach Kyle Shanahan getting the chance to game plan it wouldn’t be a shock to see Purdy pepper the ultra-talented tight end with short area targets and let him make plays after the catch.
Looking at the Tampa Bay side, their offense has been wildly inefficient in moving the ball this season. After ranking 3rd and 7th in yards per play over the last two seasons, the Bucs rank 25th in that category this year while scoring over 22 points on only one occasion. Facing the best scoring defense in the league this week, who also faces the lowest play volume from opponents of any team in the league, an offensive explosion seems unlikely here. That being said, there are also some individual plays on this side who make sense based on salaries::
- Chris Godwin is as good of a bet as almost any other receiver on the slate for double digit targets. His yards per catch have not been great, but just two weeks ago he had a 12 // 110 // 1 game and that is well within his range of outcomes here.
- Rachaad White and Leonard Fournette are splitting backfield duties, which makes both project poorly, but given the receiving volume and low price tags it wouldn’t be surprising for one of them to put up a 20-point game here.
- Mike Evans hasn’t scored a touchdown in his last eight games and only has two games of 100+ receiving yards this season. There aren’t a lot of data points that would put you on an Evans blow up game this week but I would guess things correct themselves in both departments before the end of the season and he’s the type of talent and skill set that you want to take some chances on in GPP’s.
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