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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Week 1 Preview

Sep 5, 2019 at 5:43 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers kick off the 2019 season with two road games, starting this Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

How the 49ers begin the season will be pivotal to determining how they will fare in 2019. The 49ers' starts to the last two campaigns, 1-8 in 2018 and 0-9 in 2017, all but ended each season. The team will have to start much better in 2019 if it has any chance of making a playoff push.

San Francisco finished 2018 with a 4-12 record. The only shining light on a dark season was that younger players like Fred Warner and Nick Mullens gained quality playing time and the losing record garnered the 49ers the second-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, which turned into potential standout, defensive end Nick Bosa.

But the 49ers have a different look and feel to them in 2019. On top of drafting Bosa, the team went out and traded a 2020 second-round pick to the Chiefs for defensive end Dee Ford. They've also added speed at linebacker with the addition of Kwon Alexander.

The 49ers have also made a slight adjustment to their defensive alignment by moving towards a traditional 4-3 alignment with more "Wide-9" techniques incorporated, designed to protect more against the pass than the run.

On the offensive side of the ball, the team added pieces in projected starter, running back Tevin Coleman, and high draft picks at wide receiver with the additions of Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd. Both rookie receivers have shown promise during the 49ers' offseason and could play significant roles in 2019. Hurd however, will likely be inactive for the Week 1 match-up against the Bucs.

The biggest change for the 49ers in 2019 is the return of starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo returns after tearing his ACL last year in Week 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The 49ers hope that Garoppolo can return to the form he showed at the end of the 2017 season, when he was able to finish the season with five straight wins.

Garoppolo looked shaky in his first preseason action against the Denver Broncos, but recovered nicely on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs in the 49ers' third preseason match-up. Ironically, the visit to Arrowhead Stadium, the location where Garoppolo tore his ACL less than a year ago, may have helped propel the quarterback over any mental hurdles he needed to overcome. The 49ers are relying on Garoppolo to lead them to a winning record in 2019, which the team has not seen since 2013.

The Buccaneers present an interesting challenge for the 49ers in the season opener. The Bucs are coming off a 5-11 finish in 2018, which led the team to fire head coach, Dirk Koetter. They have replaced Koetter with former Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, who has a 58-33-1 NFL coaching record in the regular season.

The Buccaneers should test the 49ers' defense, with former first-overall pick, Jameis Winston, still at quarterback and pass catchers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and tight end OJ Howard as Winston's top receiving threats. Evans is the standout of the group, and posted an 86-1,524-8 line in 2018.

Both Godwin and Howard are potential breakout candidates in 2019 as they head into their third seasons. Godwin posted a career-high 842 receiving yards and added seven touchdowns while Howard hauled in five touchdowns to go along with 565 receiving yards in 2018. That tandem to go along with Evans will provide no shortage of weapons for Winston, who has yet to live up to his first-overall pick status.

While the offense has promise, the Buccaneers have question marks across the board. Winston has shown to be mistake prone to this point in his career, and the Bucs have a completely new coaching staff and scheme on both sides of the ball. The team also released a mainstay on defense by letting go of defensive end Gerald McCoy in the offseason. Additionally, the 49ers were able to steal away star Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in free agency.

Vegas has this game as a toss-up, with the Buccaneers a one-point favorite over the 49ers. The odds say that this is a winnable game on both sides, in what could be an intriguing Week 1 match up.

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