The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) will go for their third road win of the season on Sunday when they take on the San Francisco 49ers (1-5) at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Here are a few individual matchups that could play a key role in determining the outcome of this Week Seven contest:
QB Colin Kaepernick vs. DE Will GholstonKaepernick has started just one game this season, throwing for 187 yards and a touchdown last Sunday in Buffalo. He also proved that he can still be a productive runner, putting up 66 yards on eight carries against the Bills. His longest rush was 29 yards. Bucs' DE Robert Ayers will miss another game with an ankle injury, which would make Gholston a key piece along the Bucs' defensive line. Gholston has proven strong in stopping the run game and it will be important for him to set the edge and not allow Kaepernick to get outside him for big gains.
RB Shaun Draughn vs. DT Gerald McCoy**
Gerald McCoy has been limited in practice all week, but could be back on the field Sunday after the well-timed bye. Not only did the Buccaneers miss his pass rush up the middle, but his absence also made it more difficult to stop opposing running backs. With Hyde ruled out for Sunday's game, Shaun Draughn could shoulder a bigger load. He has 26 rushes for 55 yards and a score this year. In six quarters without Gerald McCoy, the Bucs defense allowed 4.02 yards per rush, more than a half yard per carry more compared to when is on the field.
WR Torrey Smith vs. CB Brent GrimesWith only one game under center this year, it is hard to read how Kaepernick favors his receivers. Three different WRs had seven targets last week and it was Torrey Smith who made the most of them, catching three for 76 yards, 53 of them coming on a long touchdown pass. Grimes could find himself lined up across from the speedy receiver a few times in this one and will need to prevent any explosive plays that would help the 49ers get an air attack going.
DT DeForest Buckner vs. OT Demar Dotson **DeForest Buckner lines up as an end in the 49ers 3-4 defense and is coming off an impressive game against the Buffalo Bills. The rookie first-rounder posted two sacks, nine total tackles and a fumble recovery in the game. When lined up on the left side, he'll be squaring off with Demar Dotson, who signed a three-year deal with the Bucs this summer. Dotson is the Buccaneers highest-graded lineman and second-highest graded player on offense according to Pro Football Focus.
S Antoine Bethea vs. RB Jacquizz RodgersAntoine Bethea and fellow safety Eric Reid lead the 49ers in tackles with 38 apiece but Bethea has the edge with 35 of his tackles being solo. Often, when safeties lead their team in tackles, it can mean that they are a little porous up front, allowing opponents to get to the second and third levels on their running plays. That appears to be the case for San Francisco this season, as they are allowing a league-high 174.5 rushing yards per game and have given up nine rushes of 20+ yards. Jacquizz Rodgers will likely shoulder the load this week as he did against the Panthers when he rushed for 101 yards. He could be in line for anther productive game in this one.
CB Tramaine Brock vs. WR Mike EvansEvans is currently the only NFL player who ranks in the top 10 in receiving yards per game, receptions per game and receiving touchdowns. He is currently on pace to beat his yardage total from last year and has already posted more touchdowns than he did a season ago. Evans will look to improve on his 32 receptions, 449 yards and four scores against Tremaine Brock and the 49ers' pass defense. They are allowing just 215.5 passing yards per game but have given up 12 passing touchdowns. Brock has 21 tackles and a forced fumble this year but is still looking for his first interception.