The New Orleans Saints will be in Tampa Sunday to take on a Buccaneer team that is feeling much better after their 30-27 win over the Arizona Cardinals, in a game which actually felt like a loss in some respects.
Despite Jameis Winston’s two picks and the secondary not playing well, the Bucs managed to get the win before the smallest home crowd in 23 years at Raymond James Stadium.
The Saints are also reeling a bit after they were upset at home by an underachieving Atalanta Falcons team 26-9, a game in which Drew Brees was sacked six times and was held without a touchdown pass.
The Saints have a two game lead in the NFC south and will be missing two key players one on offense and one on defense in this matchup.
Cornerback Marshon Lattimore who has done a great job keeping Mike Evans in check the last couple of games with the Saints is out.
Offensive guard Andrus Peat will also not play in the game. With Peat out, that should help Jason Pierre-Paul,Vita Vea, and Shaq Barrett get more pressure on Drew Brees.
For the Bucs on the injury front, Carl Nassib, MJ Stewart, and Anthony Nelson will miss the game on Sunday. Safety Justin Evans, offensive linemen Zack Bailey, and quarterback Blaine Gabbert are on IR and will miss the rest of the season.
The Bucs offensive line will be going against one of the more physical defensive fronts in the game.
On defense for the Saints, it starts with the front four of Marcus Davenport, Sheldon Rankins, Malcolm Brown, and Cameron Jordan.
The Bucs offensive line will have to be ready to go from the start to keep Jameis Winston upright and give him time to make plays.
Look for Mike Evans to have a big game with Lattimore out. Evans was held without a catch in the 31-24 loss to the Saints back on October 6th, while Chris Godwin had seven catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bucs would be wise to get Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones involved in the passing game early using those backs to slow down the Saints front seven.
The young Bucs secondary will have their hands full with All-Pro receiver Michal Thomas. Thomas torched the Bucs secondary with 13 catches for 152 yards in their earlier encounter this season.
The Saints will have a slightly different look this time around at quarterback as Drew Brees is back under center. Teddy Bridgewater was the quarterback the last time the Saints and Bucs played with Bridgewater passing for 314 yards and four touchdowns.
Bucs Coach Bruce Arians talked about the Brees-Thomas combination at his weekly press conference. “Obviously, it’s an excellent team coming in here. A little bit different with Drew than with Teddy. Obviously, Michael Thomas and Drew have a heck of a combination going with all the targets he had last week, but it will be a big challenge.”
Saints running back Alvin Kamara is also a dual threat both running the ball and catching the ball. Kamara had eight catches for 50 yards, but only managed 24 yards running the ball on four carries in the game in New Orleans in week 5.
As good as Drew Brees is, it is the defense that is the strength of this Saints team this season. The Saints defense is ranked fifth in the league giving up 315 yards a game.
Offensively, the Saints are 14th in the league averaging 368 yards a game.
This will be a close game, as the game in week five went down to the wire before the Saints pulled out a win.
For the Bucs to beat the Saints on Sunday, here are three things that have to happen.
1. The Bucs must Contain Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara.
2. The Bucs defense must get consistent pressure on Drew Brees.
3. The Bucs offensive line must control the line of scrimmage against the more physical Saints defensive line.
This will be a close game and as most of the Buccaneer games, this one will go down to the wire as well.
The Saints have the better kicker and overall the better special teams and this one will come down to special teams play.
I think the Saints win 35-32 in a close hard fought game.