Reminder: Get your Week 11 predictions in before the games start. If you miss any early games you can still predict the later games.
Absolut has joined the growing crowd of SB Nation sponsors and really this might be the most useful on a football Sunday. For the breakfast folks out there, a Bloody Mary can certainly take the edge off before the 49ers get going. I used to work at the ESPNZone in Las Vegas and on Saturday and Sunday mornings when people would come watch the early games, Bloody Mary's were one of the top items on the menu.
Given that we'll be posting these posts Sunday mornings, I thought we could use it for a couple of things. First, we'll do a quick rundown of some of things the 49ers need to do to get a win. Some are obvious, while others are a little more subtle. While they don't have to excel at every one of these keys, the more they can master the better. Second, you can use this post for discussion of the 10am games wherever you're watching them. I'll be using the Red Zone channel because that's my own personal crack.
After the jump, check out our five keys to victory...
49ERS KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Don't let the ball slip slide away - Turnovers are a big deal and lack of turnovers has been one of many keys to victory lately. However, today's game brings the extra challenge of rain. San Francisco had a heck of thunder and lightning show last night and the rain was coming down in buckets. It's supposed to rain today as well, although I don't think nearly as hard as yesterday. Nonetheless, ball protection will be huge in all facets of the game. People have been getting annoyed with Ted Ginn for all his fair catches but if the rain is coming down today I really have no problem with numerous fair catches.
2. Taking advantage of Josh Morgan - Football Outsiders ranks team defenses in their performance against certain types of receivers in the passing game. The Bucs rank fourth against opposing No. 1 receivers, while they rank 22nd against No. 2 receivers. Michael Crabtree is a dynamic wide receiver who can do big things against opposing defenses. I have little doubt that he can put together a solid game against the Bucs. However, the more the team can work Josh Morgan into the game, the better off their offense will be. Troy Smith has shown a willingness to spread the wealth in the passing game. Some folks aren't sold on Josh Morgan and his skill set, but I think he can still turn into an excellent No. 3 receiver, which is really all the 49ers need considering Crabtree and Vernon Davis are their top two guys.
3. Containing Josh Freeman, the runner - One of the reasons Josh Freeman is taking his performance to the next level in his second season is his continued emergence as a solid scrambling quarterback. FO ranks him second among all QBs that have rushed the ball at least five times, behind only Michael Vick in terms of DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement). Freeman has had between two and six rushes each game, so he's not a guy who is going to take off at a moment's notice. However, he's done a good job picking his spots and making his runs count. It will be important for the 49ers to keep an eye on him and keep him from getting happy feet. A scramble by a QB for a nice sized gain, particularly earning a first down, can be a momentum killer for a defense.
4. Stability in the kicking game - We discussed this briefly a couple days ago, but the potential rain today adds to an already tricky kicking situation. Joe Nedney is out with a knee injury and the team has brought in Shane Andrus to fill his spot for the time being. Andrus has been a camp body for the 49ers and has some limited regular season action under his belt. Last year he subbed for Nedney in the final game of the season kicking four extra points and missing a field goal. He also spent three games with the Bucs last year so he's got experience with both sides this afternoon. I'm not positive about this, but based on his picture at 49ers.com I think he's a right footed kicker. If this is true it's noteworthy because Nedney is a left-footed kicker, which could make things interesting for holder Andy Lee.
5. Containing the passing game - We'll close with the most obvious key to victory. The 49ers secondary really needs to step up today, particularly against WR Mike Williams. He'll start in spite of potentially pending legal trouble and he has been Josh Freeman's top target. Kellen Winslow is certainly a big target as well, but Manny Lawson has shown an ability to cover quality tight ends, so I'm not quite as worried about that matchup. However, the 49ers secondary has been incredibly inconsistent against wide receivers. They really need to step up against the Bucs today.
ENJOY WITH ABSOLUT RESPONSIBILITY®