Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. San Francisco 49ers Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1 SU, 2-2 ATS) vs. San Francisco 49ers (3-1 SU, 3-0-1 ATS), 4:05 p.m. EST, NFL Week 5, Sunday, October 9, 2011, Candlestick Park, San Francisco, California, TV: Fox
by Scotty L, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: TB +1.5/SF -1.5
Over/Under Total: 40.5

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The Buccaneers of Tampa Bay head far west to take on the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon. Both teams can be looked at as NFC up-and-comers. Tampa and particularly San Francisco have experienced a lot of glory over the years, only to have fallen on hard times recently. The Bucs won ten games last season, after winning a mere three the year before. The Niners have been trying to break free of mediocrity for several years and their 3-1 start suggests they are ready to take that next step under new coach Jim Harbaugh.

What a win for San Francisco on Sunday-overcoming a late-3rd quarter 23-3 deficit to storm back and beat Philly at home. Surely, a win of this nature will get the clichs rolling, about how that one triumph can serve as an epiphany for the franchise, but it might be accurate in this case. It’s the type of victory that can pump a lot of wind into the sails of a franchise that hasn’t had much to get excited about lately.

After 3 unproductive games to start the season, RB Frank Gore looked great, racking up 127 yards on just 15 carries. The Niners were doing well when Gore was quiet and if he continues to play like he did on Sunday, this offense will have a lot of balance. Alex Smith (21-33-291-2-0) was effective, but more importantly, showed a lot of character in a clutch comeback.

On one hand, the Frisco “D” didn’t impress against Philly, giving up a career-high 416 passing yards to Philly QB Michael Vick, who also ran for 75 yards. Nevertheless, they were resilient enough to hold the Eagles to a reasonable 23 points. And when it really mattered, they came through, allowing merely an early-3rd quarter field goal in the entire second half. So far, the SF defensive unit has been awfully tough against the run. They also show a flair for the timely big play, getting another key turnover on Sunday to end the Eagles’ last drive and seal the win.

The Bucs are still a darkhorse, but a team whose effectiveness and resurgence is becoming more and more difficult to ignore. They lost their opener to Detroit, 27-20-a result that keeps looking better as Detroit is still unbeaten. Since then, they have won 3 straight and are coming off a Monday night win at home over a dogged Indy team. QB Josh Freeman continues to grow as the Bucs’ prudent field general and he had a nice 4th quarter to help his team come from behind against the Colts.

Tampa’s defense was good against the Colts, especially against the run. They also played tough in key situations, holding Indy to 7 points in the second half. Freeman was efficient, going 25-39 for 287 yards and a touchdown. RB LeGarrette Blount ran for 127 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown in a potential breakout game. Freeman was effective just squirting the ball around, with 5 different receivers catching at least 3 passes. The offense showed a nice mix, with Freeman exhibiting poise and leadership.

It’s been inspiring watching the relatively unheralded players and coaches succeed at Tampa. They seem to make the most of what they have and are greater in sum than what their individual parts would suggest. At 3-1, this is a crucial game for Tampa, but also for San Francisco. 4-1 sounds a lot better than 3-2. Only so many teams can go to the playoffs in an ultra-competitive NFC and this game will go a long way toward establishing a postseason threat amongst these two up-and-coming teams.

Scotty L’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This will be a well-matched game between two good 3-1 teams. It might be off-base to assume that Tampa will be suffering from a full-fledged Monday Night Football hangover, but they might be a little flat on Sunday. They need to travel across the country to San Francisco on a short week and the 49ers might have a bit more pep. Look for Alex Smith to get the ball to his playmakers, with the now in-gear Frank Gore chipping in with a nice performance on the ground. Take the 49ers minus 1.5 points.

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