The Tampa Bay Buccaneers march into Candlestick this weekend at 6-3. Oh, how the 49ers would like to be 6-3 right now.
The reality is that the 3-6 49ers have dropped every game they've played against the NFC South this season. Moreover, they lost the three games by a combined eight points.
San Francisco will play out the season with their backs against the wall in the NFL's scrappiest division, while the Buccaneers are going toe-to-toe with the heavyweights of the NFC.
Raheem Morris is not only the Buccaneers' head coach, but he maintains a certain amount of control by remaining as the teams defensive coordinator as well.
He's not a legendary Hall of Fame linebacker, but he's found a way to get his men to play disciplined football.
Morris cut his teeth at Hofstra, and Cornell, and as a defensive intern for the New York Jets before climbing the latter to head coach in Tampa Bay.
If Freeman had played at the University of Nebraska (as he originally committed to do) it would be hard for me not to like him. The Kansas State product, however, will get no such sympathy (or objectivity) from me.
Like last weeks rival, however, Freeman's numbers (and attributes) speak for themselves.
Freeman is the prototypical big quarterback at 6-6 and 248 pounds. This year (his second year) he has completed 164 of 270 passing attempts for 1,963 yards, 12 touchdowns and only five interceptions. These numbers are up a significant jump from his rookie year in 2009.
Okay, really these guys show pretty good potential and diversity at the receiver spots.
At 6'2, 212, Mike Williams is prototypical in size, but a rookie nonetheless.Another rookie, Arrelious Benn, is from a similar mold (and impressed in college.)
Sammie Stroughter is smaller and in his second year. Michael Spurlock is another talent i his third year, though he mostly returns kicks.
Maurice Stovall is the squadron's veteran at five years, and the biggest target at 6'5, 220.
Legarrett Boulnt must be the most interesting story coming out of Tampa's backfield.
Sometimes referred to as "Punchy," Blount made himself a reputation as an emotional football player (to say the least) in college.
Blount went undrafted in April but verbally agreed to join the 49ers shortly after. Instead, however, Jeff Fisher and the Tennessee Titans wooed him, before cutting him.
Then Tampa claimed Blount off waivers, and he has done a good job running the ball there, with a breakout game on Halloween. That week, the 6' 250 Running back rushed for 120 yards and two rather impressive touchdowns.
Carnell "Cadillac" Williams is the starter, however, and though a series of injuries have stunted his career a bit, he seems to be regaining his form.
Earnest Graham is the fullback. Although he's not a big stat pusher, Graham did have ten touchdowns in 2007.
Kellen Winslow Jr is the son of Hall-of-Fame tight end Kellen Winslow senior. Winslow Sr. revolutionized the tight end position in Don Coryell's "Air Coryell" offense of the 70's and 80's.
Those are large shoes to fill indeed, and Winslow has developed more of a bad-boy reputation. Can you really criticize a guy though, for not tolerating a Cleveland locker room that gave him a staph infection?
Jr is a physical weapon both blocking and receiving.
They're not the "Tampa Two" defense of the late 90's and early 00's, but they're not cupcakes. Ronde Barber is a leftover from those days, and a veteran presence beyond value.
Styles G. White and Gerald McCoy are the biggest threats on the defensive line, and Barret Rudd is though at middle linebacker as well.
Cody Grimm gives the 49ers an opportunity to pass deep if they can capitalize on the rookie at free safety.
Between offense and defense, there are the special teams plays. These are opportunity for disaster and triumph. Michael Spurlock is Tampa's return man, and if he looks rather familiar, its because he also spent a little time in SF.
Spurlock became the first Buccaneer to return a kickoff for a touchdown in 2007.
Back at The Stick again, the forecast calls for football weather. a high of 58 degrees and 70% precipitation are expected.
That's perfect for a tooth-and-nail battle and one of the 49ers most important games all year.
It's hard to say, because they're beautiful and all, but bundle up, Goldrush!