Reversing the Trend

In August of 1997 the Bucs hosted the Niners in their brand new crimson and pewter uniforms, a game the home team won 13-6. Their next meeting was of greater importance when the Bucs rolled out the welcome mat for a playoff match up that ended up as a blowout that catapulted the Bucs through the postseason all the way to the Super Bowl. The only problem is the three players who scored touchdowns in that game will not be in uniform Sunday when the Bucs take the field in San Francisco's 3Com Park.

Injuries have taken away the weapons the Bucs used last year to beat the 49ers 31-6. Mike Alstott had a monster game scoring two touchdowns, while Joe Jurevicius and Rickey Dudley each caught scoring passes.

The Bucs use different formations to confuse defenses and create favorable matches. Last week in the nations capital the back up caught the Redskins off guard and the offense tallied 35 points. Todd Yoder and Will Heller will not be under the radar this week as the 49ers defense will be keeping a much closer eye on them than the Skins did. This is why the remaining opening day starters must step up.

Keyshawn Johnson is banged up, but he does not want to be shown up by the outspoken Terrell Owens. Keenan McCardell is one of the only receivers to avoid the injury bug this year so look for Brad Johnson to go to him early and often.

When comparing the two teams it is obvious who should win the game with the Bucs ranked higher than the Niners in every offensive and defensive category, every category except one. Believe it or not the 49ers lead the league in sacks with 19, six more than the Bucs. The two teams are ranked 4 and 5 respectively in total defense so be careful when considering the over.

The Bucs will need their offense, which is ranked 2nd in the league, to score at least two touchdowns to win because Owens and Tai Streets are talented receivers who can burn the Bucs' depleted secondary. Quarterback Jeff Garcia is injury prone so it is essential that the Bucs get to him early and knock him down to keep him out of rhythm.

The Bucs need a win to start evening out the lopsided historical record between these two teams. The Niners are coming off a heartbreaking 20-19 loss that they suffered last week against Seattle so they will come out extra pumped. The 2-4 Niners are already fighting for their playoff lives, so look for a close game ending in a 27-17 victory for the visitors.

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