Game Scout: San Francisco 49ers (2-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-7)
SERIES HISTORY: 23rd regular-season meeting. 49ers lead series, 17-5. The road team has won each of the last two meetings, with the Buccaneers prevailing 34-17 in Week 7 of 2016 in the most recent head-to-head. The 49ers won on their last trip to Florida, 33-14 in Week 15 of the 2013 season. The clubs have met just once in the postseason, with Tampa Bay winning 31-6 at home in a divisional playoff game at the end of the 2002 season.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bucs have a dynamic offense and turn back to quarterback Jameis Winston this week after his big second-half nearly led to a comeback win over the New York Giants last week. The key as always is to prevent turnovers as Tampa Bay turned it over four times last week.
Protect the quarterback and get to the other guy's quarterback. It used to be that football teams talked about running the ball and stopping the run as the keys to success. But not the way the NFL game is being played today.
Neither team has the type of secondary that's going to be able to handle the other's receivers if the quarterbacks get ample time to throw. But San Francisco's Nick Mullens has made just two NFL starts, and had two interceptions in his second, while Winston has been harassed into at least two picks in each of his three starts. The team that forces the most mistakes figures to have the upper hand.
Defensively, the Bucs are led by Jason Pierre-Paul, who has 9.5 sacks. But the linebacker position is depleted by injury and 49ers running back Matt Breida could have a big day.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
--OUT: WR Pierre Garcon (knee), G Joshua Garnett (thumb)
--QUESTIONABLE: LB Reuben Foster (hamstring)
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
--OUT: LB Lavonte David (knee), S Justin Evans (toe), CB M.J. Stewart (foot)
--QUESTIONABLE: DE Vinny Curry (ankle), WR DeSean Jackson (thumb), C Ryan Jensen (hamstring), RB Ronald Jones II (hamstring), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee, shoulder, hand), LS Garrison Sanborn (knee), S Jordan Whitehead (concussion)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Buccaneers WR Mike Evans vs. 49ers CB Richard Sherman. These two met a few years ago when Sherman was with the Seattle Seahawks and Evans got the upper hand. Evans needs only 43 yards to go over 1,000 yards for the fifth straight season.
--49ers RB Matt Breida vs. Buccaneers LB Adarius Taylor. Breida played in the Tampa Bay area at Nature's Coast High School. He is 10th in the NFL in rushing with 632 yards. With Kwon Alexander on injured reserve, Taylor becomes the main run stopper.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: 49ers RB Matt Breida. The bye week couldn't have come too soon for the 5-foot-10 back, who has limped off the field more times than anyone has cared to count this season. But there was a time when the undrafted second-year back ranked among the NFL leaders in yards gained early in the season before his injuries kicked in. He figures to be as healthy as he's been in several weeks after his in-season vacation.
FAST FACTS: 49ERS QB NICK MULLENS has 512 pass yards (256 per game) with 4 TDs vs. 2 INTs for 104 rating in 2 career starts. ... RB MATT BREIDA had 132 scrimmage yards (101 rush, 31 rec.) & 2 TDs (1 rush, 1 rec.) in Week 10, his 1st-career multi-TD game. Leads NFL with 5.59 yards per rush avg. (min. 100 carries). ... RB ALFRED MORRIS since entering league in 2012, ranks 6th in NFL with 5,816 rush yards. ... TE GEORGE KITTLE had career-high 9 receptions for 83 yards in Week 10. Has 13 catches for 191 yards (95.5 per game) & TD in his past 2. Ranks 2nd in NFL with 539 YAC & ties for 3rd among NFL TEs in receptions (50) & rec. yards (775) in 2018. ... WR MARQUISE GOODWIN since 2017, leads NFL averaging 17.8 yards per catch (min. 50 catches). ... DL DeFOREST BUCKNER has 1.5 sacks & PD in his past 2. ... LB FRED WARNER ranks 2nd among NFC rookies with 76 tackles in 2018. ... CB RICHARD SHERMAN had career-high 2 TFL in Week 10. Since entering league in 2011, is only NFL player with 30+ INTs (32) & 100+ PD (103). ... BUCCANEERS QB JAMEIS WINSTON completed 12 of 16 (75 pct.) for 199 yards with 2 TDs vs. 1 INT for 129.9 rating last week. ... RB PEYTON BARBER rushed for career-high 106 yards & TD last week. Has 60+ scrimmage yards in 3 of his past 4. ... WR MIKE EVANS had 120 rec. yards & TD catch in Week 11. ... WR ADAM HUMPHRIES has 3 TD catches in his past 3. ... DT GERALD McCOY aims for his 3rd in row with sack. ... DE JASON PIERRE-PAUL had 7 tackles & 1.5 sacks last week. Has 4 sacks & FF in 4 home games with TB. ... DE CARL NASSIB has 4.5 sacks in his past 5.
PREDICTION: The revival of Jameis Winston will continue after his effectiveness in last week's 38-35 loss at the New York Giants. While Tampa Bay's defense struggles, the 49ers do not possess the same dynamic playmakers the Bucs encountered last week. Plus, the 49ers are traveling three time zones, which often is not a recipe for success.
OUR PICK: Buccaneers, 31-20