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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
October 26, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
ARI at DAL JAC at STL* WAS at NYG* TB at SF* BUF at NE
CHI at DET* MIA at NO* Sun 4 PM On Bye: Mon 9 PM
GB at CIN OAK at TEN* PHI at DEN ATL, SEA *Updated

Prediction: Tampa Bay 30, San Francisco 10

The battle of the bays hardly looks like much of a match. Since week two, the 49ers have not allowed less than 28 points per game and come off a 52-17 stomping by Washington that was nowhere near that close. The Buccaneers have tended to play games by a much closer margin that was expected but they still have won all but once. Try as they may, both opponents since Rattay stepped down have been unsuccessful in keeping the score even remotely close against the 49ers.

The Buccaneers won 35-3 when the 49ers visited in week 12 of last year.

Update: Carnell Williams remains listed as questionable to play but has returned to practice. It looks favorable for him to suit up this week but since it is the 49ers, I am leaving the projections alone. Figure that the Buccaneers should be able to win this game handily and there is no reason to wear out Williams in what could be the easiest matchup of the year. I expect Pittman to get more use this week.

Ken Dorsey has been made the starter since Alex Smith has not practiced and is hampered by a sprained knee. This should actually help the 49ers passing game to some extent though they still face a very tough defense. I expect more passing yardage with the more experienced Dorsey in there and have upgraded the recievers except for Arnaz Battle who is likely to miss this week with the right knee sprain that has kept him out of games this month.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-1)
1 24-13 @MIN 10 Nov 13 WAS
2 19-3 BUF 11 Nov 20 @ATL
3 17-16 @GBP 12 Nov 27 CHI
4 17-13 DET 13 Dec 4 @NOR
5 12-14 @NYJ 14 Dec 11 @CAR
6 27-13 MIA 15 Dec 17 @NE
7 Open Bye 16 Dec 24 ATL
8 Oct 30 @SFO 17 Jan 1 NOR
9 Nov 6 CAR . . SAT
TBB at SF Rush Catch Pass
QB Chris Simms 0 0 230,2
RB Cadillac Williams 40 10 0
RB Michael Pittman 60,1 20 0
TE Alex Smith 0 10 0
TE Anthony Becht 0 10 0
WR Joey Galloway 0 90,1 0
WR Michael Clayton 0 70,1 0
WR Ike Hilliard 0 20 0
PK Matt Bryant 3 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Buccaneers come off their bye week and going against the 49ers is about as good as it gets this season. Cadillac has not healed up and now may be a lingering problem and Brian Griese is gone. This week could be Chris Simms and Michael Pittman - the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Quarterback: Now that Brian Griese is out of the picture, Chris Simms comes in with only three NFL starts on his resume' but HC Jon Gruden thinks that Simms has matured and is up to the task. Simms threw 6 of 10 for 69 yards in relief of Griese this year and in the four games he has played in the NFL, he has only thrown for one score that went to Michael Clayton in the final game of last year. That final game was a career best that produced 224 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in Arizona last year.

The Buccaneers have also traded to obtain Tim Rattay, but certainly for this week there is no question that Simms will be getting the start.

Griese threw for 210 yards and two scores against the 49ers last year.

Running Backs: The bye week was good for Cadillac Williams who set all-time records in his first three games as a pro but missed the last three games with foot and hamstring injuries. Williams was already hampered by the injuries when he started week three against the Packers and even Gruden admits that maybe giving him the ball on 37 carries that week was a bad idea. Williams has been diagnosed with a Lis Franc injury that typically requires 10 to 12 weeks to heal. Apparently Williams could play this week but he'll experience more pain as the game proceeds and the anesthetic wears off. I am projecting for both Williams and Michael Pittman to play this week but it could end up just Pittman. Updates as warranted.

With Simms now the starter, the Bucs will likely want to run even more which could end up including more of Williams and/or Pittman in the gameplan.

Michael Pittman ran for 106 yards and two scores against the 49ers last season.

Wide Receivers: Joey Galloway has been a big surprise this season, already recording three games with scores and one effort in Green Bay in which he scored twice. He already has three games of 96 yards or more. The issue here will be the effectiveness of Galloway with Simms as the quarterback. Galloway was injured last season in two of the three games that Simms played but in the final game of the season, the duo only combined for three catches for 48 yards and that was the first game in five weeks that Galloway had not scored. For what it may be worth, Michael Clayton had two catches for 86 yards and one score when playing with Simms in that game though he only had 61 yards receiving in each of the two other games with Simms. It's unreasonable to expect that Simms can step in and immediately replicate the success that Galloway had been having with Griese this season and although his only score was thrown to Clayton last year, it did come on only two receptions in that game - week 17, the most meaningless game of all.

Michael Clayton only had 66 yards against the 49ers last season while Galloway only managed 33 yards. Joe Jurevicius had two scores and 82 yards in that meeting.

Tight Ends: Simms has never had more than one completion per tight end in his brief playing time last year and that about matches the use of them anyway.

Match Against the Defense: The 49ers defense has only become worse as the season progresses and the Buccaneers should have nice success in whatever they want to do. Considering that Williams will not be needed for the game, his playing time is most likely going to be reduced and Pittman should manage decent yardage and at least one score.

The 49ers have the worst ranked pass defense and provides a wonderful first start for Chris Simms this season. He likely won't hit them up for a much as most teams because the Buccaneers are not going to expect him to throw much more than needed, but reasonably he'll have at least 200 yards passing with a shot at 300 if he tried. No one has managed to throw for less than 250 yards against the 49ers. Either Galloway or Clayton will score here if not both. It really just depends on what Gruden wants to do and how much he wants to give Simms some experience this week.

San Francisco 49ers (1-5)
1 28-25 STL 10 Nov 13 @CHI
2 3-42 @PHI 11 Nov 20 SEA
3 31-34 DAL 12 Nov 27 @TEN
4 14-31 @ARI 13 Dec 4 ARI
5 3-28 IND 14 Dec 11 @SEA
6 Open Bye 15 Dec 18 @JAC
7 17-52 @WAS 16 Dec 24 @STL
8 Oct 30 TBB 17 Jan 1 HOU
9 Nov 6 NYG . . SAT
SFO vs TB Rush Catch Pass
QB Ken Dorsey 0 0 160,1
RB Kevan Barlow 40 20 0
RB Frank Gore 50 20 0
TE Trent Smith 0 10 0
WR Brandon Lloyd 0 60,1 0
WR Johnnie Morton 0 30 0
WR Arnaz Battle 0 20 0
PK Joe Nedney 1 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: There's not much good when the team comes off a 52-17 loss, or the 28-3 one before that, or the 14-31 before that, or... you get the picture. Just to make matters even worse, the 49ers have their quarterback Alex Smith questionable with a knee sprain. No problem, they can just rely on their veteran back-up of .... uh-oh. Tim Rattay will be at the game but he'll be sporting a different uniform and likely a bit of a grin. Okay, so maybe it can get worse.

Quarterback: Alex Smith's numbers - 166 yards - wouldn't be so bad if they were not a two game total. So far the rookie is in step one of phase one of the learning curve and has thrown five interceptions and lost two fumbles against no touchdowns yet. Smith sprained his knee against the Redskins and fluid has built up. He may play this week or may be replaced by Ken Dorsey. You wouldn't want to start either on your fantasy team though Dorsey may be better.

The 49ers only managed 147 passing yards and no score against the Bucs last year.

Running Backs: Kevan Barlow has been running reasonably well this year though realistically his success has largely come towards the end of games when the 49ers had no business rushing the ball as they were so far behind. Barlow scored once last week but he left the game with a bruised quadriceps. I am assuming that he can play at least a limited role this week and will update after practice reports.

Frank Gore has also been impressing the coaching staff lately, gaining 31 yards on 8 runs against the Colts and then taking nine runs to produce 89 yards and one score thanks to 72-yard run with only two minutes left to play when the Redskins were already leading by 42 points. Looks great but in context less impressive. If Barlow cannot play this week, Gore will step in and face the #1 defense against the run. Let's see that 72-yard run again.

Barlow only gained 30 rushing yards against Tampa Bay in 2004 while Maurice Hicks ran for 36 yards.

Wide Receivers: it's been so long - 4 weeks - since the wideouts scored that it is a memory test to recall who was once considered good from this unit. Oh yes, Brandon Lloyd. He had three scores and two 100 yard games before Rattay was benched and now has only two catches for 43 yards since week four. Johnnie Morton catches one or two per game but he never mattered even when Rattay was there. If Dorsey plays, there is a chance that Lloyd or even Arnaz Battle could have some fantasy value but with Smith, there is just too few catches and yards.

Last year in Tampa Bay, Brandon Lloyd only had one catch for seven yards.

Tight Ends: Trent Smith blew away all other tight end performances for the 49ers this year when he had two catches for seven yards. Yes, really.

Match Against the Defense: The only success that the 49ers have had since Rattay left is running the ball late in the game when no one cares. But Barlow is banged up and Gore has never had a full load and neither one has faced the #1 defense against the run that is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Don't count on much here but it the score got lop-sided enough, any defense could let down and allow a rushing attempt to break free.

The Buccaneers secondary has allowed only one quarterback (Favre) to to throw any touchdowns this year. The other five have only thrown interceptions. Even if Dorsey plays this week, there is no matchup here worth considering. The 49ers do not have a Favre, they do not even have a Rattay anymore. At least they can wave to him this week.