As we approach Saturday's exhibition game withe Raiders, I thought I'd throw out a completely unrelated Know thy Enemy. I'll have my thoughts up for the Raiders game in due time. In the meantime, let's take a look at an opponent who could stand between us and a playoff spot. Week 16 has the San Francisco 49ers facing off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Walsh Field on national tv as the NBC Sunday night game of the week. With only the Browns remaining, this could be a massively significant game in a playoff chase. And if the 49ers are out of playoff contention, this would be quite the dud of a game. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say most of us are in favor of the former.
The Buccaneers season went to hell rather quickly last season, losing 4 straight to start the season, losing Chris Simms for the season, seeing Cadillac look like a Pinto and generally playing like crap (except for killing gamblers in their near upset of the Bears at Soldier Field).
The Bucs parlayed a 4-12 record into the 4th overall pick, which they wisely used on Gaines Adams to replace Simeon Rice. Some solid acquisitions in the offseason will make Tampa Bay a force to be reckoned with, even if they will battle the Falcons for the cellar (although SG's Ewing Theory could throw a wrench in that). Tampa Bay has their work cut out for them in their rebuilding process, but they're making some solid moves to make it happen.
The addition of Gaines Adams made Simeon Rice's salary expendable. While it'd be nice to have Rice around, the money was a bit much, so they cut him. Additionally, they released former first round pick Kenyatta Walker and 11 year pro Shelton Quarles as part of the effort to inject some youth into the equation and turn this roster over.
The Buccaneers made some solid additions through the draft and free agency to improve the team. We all know what Gaines Adams brings to the table. Additionally, Arron Sears will push for playing time on the offensive line and Sabby Piscitelli and Tanard Jackson will get a shot at time in the secondary. Not too shabby for four of your first five picks.
In free agency, the team made some solid signings including Jeff Garcia, Cato June, Luke Petitgout and Jerramy Stevens (in spite of all of our hatred). All three have a chance to make a real contribution to this team and should help elevate them from abysmal to mediocre.
2007 Questions & Answers
While they're going about things differently than the 49ers, I think they're making smart moves to move back towards respectability. The toughest question is at quarterback. Jeff Garcia is a fine solution for the short term, but they need to figure out whether Chris Simms is the guy of the future for them or not. A rebuilding project is fine, but if Simms is not the quarterback they're going to build around, they need to figure something out fast.
A big question is whether Cadillac Williams is the running back who struggled last year or not. He struggled a bit at the end of 2005 so it's certainly a disturbing pattern. I think he's got the talent to rebound, but I'm not sure what to expect. Consistency will be the key.
On the defensive side of the ball, the question is how the youth movement plays out. They've brought in some great young talent and if it pans out, they'll definitely be heading in the right direction (you'd think I'm a Bucs blogger or something).
vs. San Francisco
This is a must-win game for the 49ers, whether they are in the playoff race or not. This is the type of game where good teams make statements. They put their foot to the throat of the opponent and put them away from the get-go. While I think the Bucs will surprise some folks this season, they will not surprise the 49ers. I see a complete effort leading to a 41-13 victory. Frank Gore rushes for a TD, Michael Robinson rushes for a TD, Alex Smith throws one to DJax, one to The Disease and a deep bomb to Lelie. Maybe I'm getting excited as the season gets closer, but I think this offseason can do some damage.