Last Updated: September 4th at 4:37pm ET.
Team Totals: 49ers 25.25, Bucs 25.25
49ers-Bucs sets up as shootout city with a 50.5-point total hosted by a Bucs team that ranked sixth in offensive plays last season now coached by Bruce Arians, whose final two Arizona offenses finished second and fifth in plays per game. Contract-year QB Jameis Winston’s matchup is mouth watering after San Francisco ranked 27th in pass-defense DVOA, then did virtually nothing to upgrade its secondary. Following repeated early-season benchings, Winston closed 2018 strong with a 13:4 TD-to-INT ratio, 64.4% completion rate, and 7.9 yards per attempt over Tampa Bay’s final seven games and was fantasy’s QB9 during that span. Winston is a high-floor, high-upside QB1 against the pass-funnel Niners. … San Francisco sets up as much stronger versus the run with athletic LBs Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner running free behind DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and D.J. Jones, rendering all Bucs running backs easy Week 1 fades. Tampa Bay also returns 4-of-5 starters from an offensive line that ranked dead last in the NFC in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards. Peyton Barber will likely handle most early-down work with Ronald Jones ineffectively changing the pace and Dare Ogunbowale entering on passing downs. If you’re searching for an RB5 stash, Ogunbowale offers the highest PPR ceiling in the group. Interestingly, Ogunbowale was announced as one of the Bucs’ team captains for Week 1.
As you probably know from the season-long draft process, Tampa Bay’s passing-game distribution has been narrowed severely by Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson’s combined 224 departed targets – a full 14 per game – with new slot WR Chris Godwin locked into a massive playing-time upgrade on last year’s 64% clip. Larry Fitzgerald topped 100 catches three times as Arians’ slot dominator in Arizona, and Reggie Wayne drew a career-high 195 targets in his lone year under Arians in the same role. On Sunday, diminutive 49ers slot CB K’Waun Williams (5’9/189) will try to hang with Godwin (6’1/209) four weeks removed from arthroscopic knee surgery. Godwin saw an increase of 3.0 yards per target versus zone coverage last year, while the 49ers ran zone at the NFL’s eighth-highest clip. … The Bucs signed 4.30-flat lid lifter Breshad Perriman to become a lower-volume version of D-Jax, running clear-out routes so that Godwin and O.J. Howard can eat. Now a full-time player after sharing 2017-2018 snaps with Cameron Brate, Howard was in on 95% of Winston’s dropbacks this preseason. In his first two years, Howard never reached an 80% snap share in an individual game. Howard is a shoo-in top-five TE1 play in this likely shootout. … Mike Evans is a perfect fit in Arians and OC Byron Leftwich’s vertical attack, having finished top five in Air Yards in four straight seasons. Camp reports had 49ers receivers running by LCB Richard Sherman all August, while RCB Ahkello Witherspoon faced repeated 2018 benchings and finished dead last among 123 qualified cornerbacks in PFF’s pass-coverage grades.
This game’s high-scoring probability, Tampa Bay’s depleted defense, and Jimmy Garoppolo’s turnover-plagued summer place Jimmy G among Week 1’s most-compelling DFS-tournament plays at surely-low ownership based on his meaningless-game and practice miscues. Garoppolo’s 8.5 yards per attempt in eight starts for Kyle Shanahan would’ve ranked top five last year, and his opponent has been decimated by injuries to 2018 sack leader Jason Pierre-Paul (neck, NFI) and NT Vita Vea (LCL tear), the releases of DT Gerald McCoy, DE Vinny Curry, and DE Noah Spence, and MLB Kwon Alexander’s (49ers) departure. WLB Lavonte David had his knee scoped on August 5. … The 49ers return all five offensive line starters after ranking top ten in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards, while San Francisco’s 2018 backfield collectively amassed the NFL’s fifth-most yards from scrimmage. Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida are both legitimate flex starters against Tampa Bay’s abominable defensive front, which is also in scheme transition moving from Mike Smith/Mark Duffner’s 4-3 to Todd Bowles’ 3-4. As last year’s 49ers backs combined for 26 touches per game, I’m projecting Coleman for 14 touches and Breida for 12 in Week 1. Coleman and Breida’s 2019 outlooks each upgraded significantly when Jerick McKinnon (knee) hit I.R.
George Kittle is neck and neck with Travis Kelce as Week 1’s top tight end play facing rookies ILB Devin Smith and FS Mike Edwards and David in coverage. Whereas Kelce must fend off Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins within his passing game, San Francisco’s inability to definitively sort out receiver roles in camp bodes well for Kittle maintaining a dominant target share. … Despite Shanahan’s August mental games designed to get the most out of Dante Pettis, Pettis enters Week 1 as the 49ers’ clear top wideout. In last year’s seven games where Pettis drew at least five targets, his 16-game stat pace was 59/987/11, averaging 16.6 yards per catch. Niners-Bucs has all kinds of DFS game-stack possibilities, and Pettis is a critical component whose ownership will be lower than it should. … The Bucs’ starting cornerback duo of Carlton Davis and Vernon Hargreaves is the NFC’s worst, and no slot corner in the league coughed up more 2018 yards per coverage snap than M.J. Stewart. Although Shanahan has been intent on reducing injury-riddled Marquise Goodwin’s playing time, Goodwin is healthy now and also very much in DFS-tournament play with spiked-week capability and a more-established rapport with Garoppolo than any other 49ers pass catcher. … No. 36 overall pick Deebo Samuel is expected to operate as San Francisco’s No. 3 receiver, and slot man Richie James as No. 4. A cross between Pierre Garcon and Golden Tate, Samuel should eventually earn his way into the starting lineup at Goodwin’s expense. But the 49ers use too many 21-personnel packages with a fullback on the field for their third receiver to be fantasy viable.
Score Prediction: 49ers 28, Bucs 27