It’s been a long time since you could use the words Buccaneers and first place in the same sentience. Yet the Bucs have put themselves in position to play for the division lead with a matchup against the New Orleans Saints tomorrow afternoon at the Superdome.
The Bucs, coming off that big win last weekend against the Rams on the road 55-40 have garnered the Bucs zero respect nationally.
Most of these so called experts are picking the Saints to beat the Bucs with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback.
The Saints have played well since Drew Brees went down with his thumb injury going 2-0 with impressive wins at Seattle, and then holding Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott to 19 yards on 31 carries in a 12-10 win on Sunday Night.
Teddy Bridgewater has played ok since the Drew Brees injury, but it is the defense that has been the big story in New Orleans through the first four games of the season.
Bridgewater has excelled in the short passing game as he has passed for only 535 yards in three games with two touchdowns and one interception. Bridgewater will not take a lot of chances down field as averages just 6.1 yards per pass.
The Bucs will once again be facing one of the best all purpose backs in the NFL in Alvin Kamara. The Bucs it seems have faced a top tier all purpose back every week since the Carolina game with McCaffrey, Barkley, and Gurley, and have not allowed a back to run for over 100 yards in any game.
This will be another tough challenge for this young defense.
Another crazy stat from the first four weeks of the season, Kamara has one touchdown, while Peyton Barber has two touchdowns.
Wide receiver Michael Thomas will present a challenge of a different kind as he is one of the top five receivers in the league. Thomas leads the Saints with 34 catches but only one touchdown.
The Bucs will come into this game with the number one run defense in the league giving up 59 yards a game. The Bucs are giving up 377 yards a game overall and the pass defense is 31st in the league giving up 318 yards a game.
When defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was asked about his defense and specifically the corners giving up 517 passing yards this week, Bowles did not seem very alarmed. He said that when you are defending 68 passes in a game you are going to give up sone yards.
Thats true, but at some point you have have to hope the pass defense improves.
The Bucs will have rookie linebacker Devin White back for this game, it will be a game time decision on how much he plays.
Rookie cornerback Jamel Dean will also see his first action since the Thursday night game against Carolina. It never hurts to get guys like White and Dean back to help out your defense.
Shaq Barrett was named the NFC defensive player of the month for September registering nine sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. He has been a one man wrecking crew for this Buccaneers defense so far this season.
Offensively, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin continue to be the top receiving due in the league as they have combined for 748 yards receiving through the first quarter of the season.
For the second time in his career, Jameis Winston was named the offensive player of the week. Winston put up 385 yards and four touchdowns in the win against the Rams.
Peyton Barber will continue to get the nod to start at running back for the Bucs even though Ronald Jones has really performed well the last two games. Look for Jones to get the bulk of the carries in New Orleans.
Another player that the Bucs will need to pay attention to is Saints backup quarterback Tayson Hill. Hill can pass,run,catch, block, and many other things that the Bucs defense will have to be ready for.
When Hill is on the field, the Bucs defense will have to know where he is lined up every time.
The Bucs defense should have Teddy Bridgewater on the run most of the afternoon.
Look for Shaq Barrett to continue his assault on the NFL record books, and the defense will keep Alvin Kamara in check.
The Saints won 12-10 against Dallas last Sunday night by kicking four field goals.
The Bucs put 48 points on the Saints in the 2018 season opener in New Orleans.
It will take more than 12 points to be this Bucs team on Sunday afternoon.
The Bucs will win this game 31-21 and sit atop the NFC South after week 5.