The 49ers travel to Tampa Bay to take on the 4-9 Buccaneers on Sunday. Six weeks ago, this game looked like a cakewalk as the Bucs sat with a record of 0-8. However, that has changed. Tampa Bay has begun to turn things around, winning 4 out of their last 5 games. The 49ers are still fighting for a playoff spot and can clinch one this week with a win coupled with a loss by Arizona and either Dallas or Philadelphia.
With that as the backdrop, let's take a look at 5 burning questions to which the answers will be key to the outcome of the game.
1) Is this a trap game? - This week has all the makings of a trap game for the 49ers. They are coming off a very emotional and physical win against their division rival, playing their only 10am start of the season, and taking on an opponent that has only 4 wins on the season. It could be very easy for a team to overlook this game.
So far this season the 49ers are 0-2 against the NFC South, having lost in back to back weeks against Carolina and New Orleans. They now face the remaining teams from the division over the next 2 weeks.
2) Can the defense take advantage of Mike Glennon? - Glennon has been perhaps the most impressive of all the rookie quarterbacks in 2013, but is coming off his worst game of the season when he threw for only 90 yards against Buffalo. The Buccaneers don't ask a lot of Glennon, he's only thrown the ball 22 times per game over the last 5 weeks, but he has made the most of the opportunities that his number has been called. Glennon is averaging 8 yards per pass attempt over the last 5 weeks.
The good news for the 49ers is that the only loss handed to Glennon during the recent upswing was against Carolina. Like the Panthers, the 49ers defense is among the best in the league and should be able to pose a number of problems for the rookie signal caller.
3) Will the 49ers offense be able to protect the football? - The Buccaneer defense leads the NFL in interceptions with 21 coming into Sunday. In addition, Tampa Bay has a +13 turnover margin on the season, including +11 over their last 5 games. This may end up being the biggest key of the game.
4) How about that Vincent Jackson? - Jackson has been Tampa Bay's version of Anquan Boldin this season. Much like Boldin has received the lions share of targets for the 49ers, Jackson has seen the majority of targets come his way to the tune of 55%.
While Jackson has been impressive, the 49ers better not sleep on Tiquan Underwood. In only 9 games this season Underwood has been able to put up 6 catches of 20+ yards, and all 16 of his receptions have gone for first downs.
What looks like an easy matchup when looked at quickly may be much more difficult.
5) Can Colin Kaepernick keep the trend going? - According to ESPN's Mike Sando, Colin Kaepernick leads the NFL with a QBR of 90.8 when playing against teams with a losing record at kickoff. In these matchups Kaepernick has thrown for 10 touchdown's with no interceptions.
49ers 23, Buccaneers 14