The Tampa Bay Buccaneers return home to take on the New Orleans Saints for a Monday Night Football matchup and a chance to pad their lead in the NFC South.
The Saints are 4-8 and have been a disappointment this season.
Under new head coach Dennis Allen, the Saints have struggled to form any identity on offense. Their best player on offense, wide receiver Michael Thomas is out for the season with a toe injury.
Starting quarterback Jameis Winston started the season as the quarterback but was injured in week four against the Vikings. He could not regain the starting job when he returned, as backup Andy Dalton took over and has been the starter since.
The Saints are awful at running the football. Since week 9, the Saints are averaging 57 yards a game after averaging 141 yards a game in the first eight weeks of the season.
Rookie wide receiver Chris Olave is the lone bright spot in the Saint’s offense this season. Olave leads all rookie receivers with 822 yards on 56 catches.
Olave is good at adjusting his route when the ball is in flight and has developed good chemistry with Andy Dalton. The Buccaneer secondary will have to match Olave stride for stride.
That task will fall primarily to Carlton Davis, as Olave often lines up on the outside.
Jarvis Landry will line up opposite Olave, and although Landry is no Michael Thomas, this duo of Olave and Landry is still very good.
Add in the Swiss army knife, Taysom Hill, who can line at almost any position on offense except the offensive line, and the Saints offense will still be a challenge for the Bucs’ defense.
The Saints have struggled with turnovers this season, turning the ball over 21 times which is the worst in the league. With those 21 turnovers, the Saints have the worst turnover margin in the league at -14.
The Saints are giving up an average of 23.3 points per game and 280 points this season. Seventy-three of those points have come off turnovers.
Andy Dalton has thrown seven picks, and the Saints have fumbled the ball away nine times as they average shy of two turnovers per game.
The game against the Saints in the last two seasons at Raymond James Stadium has not gone well. The Buccaneers were blown out 38-3 in 2020 and shut out at home last season 9-0.
So what do the Bucs need to do to get a win against the Saints?
–Don’t let the Saints run the ball. New Orleans is averaging 57 yards on the ground in the last four weeks, and the Bucs have to shut down the running game. That starts with linebacker Lavonte David not letting Alvin Kamara and the run game get going.
–Force Saints quarterback Andy Dalton to make mistakes. This starts with the pressure up the middle and some well-timed blitzes. The Saints have a propensity for turning the ball over, and the Buccaneers’ defense needs to get some turnovers against New Orleans.
–Don’t be predictable with the play-calling. The Bucs have zero imagination on offense. Sometimes it looks as if they are running a preseason play. There is an overall lack of imagination and creativity offensively. Don’t be afraid to add some different formations, and use Cade Otten and Scotty Miller to add different looks to the offense.
–Give Josh Wells some help on Cameron Jordan. Jordan is one of the best in the business at his position. In the game in New Orleans earlier this season, Tristan Wirfs held Jordan in check, allowing no sacks and no quarterback hits.
Wirfs is out, so that monumental task falls to Josh Wells to keep Jordan off Brady
The Bucs are still banged up in the secondary, as Mike Edwards, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Antoine Winfield Jr are all doubtful to play against the Saints. So it will be a game-time decision on Logan Ryan.
If Ryan can play, that would give a significant boost to this banged-up Bucs secondary.
Leonard Fournette, Russell Gage, and Cameron Brate are also questionable for the Buccaneers and will be game-time decisions.
The Bucs are 5-6, and with a win against New Orleans, can go up by two games on Atlanta in the loss column in the NFC South.
This is another must-win game for the Bucs. There will be no excuse for losing this game. The Bucs have the more talented team. Their overall roster is much better, and the Bucs have one of the best to play the game in Tom Brady.
Coach Todd Bowles thinks it will come down to who wins the turnover battle. “Whoever wins the turnover battle usually wins this ballgame. When they have more than us, they win; when we have more than them, we’ve won. That’s really it. It’s two tough teams going at it. They know us. We know them. It’s whoever makes the most mistakes.”
This will be a low-scoring game, as this is one of the worst offenses the Buccaneers have put on the field from a production standpoint. The Buccaneers are 25th offensively, averaging 18.2 points a game.
The Bucs will win this game 17-12 to get back to .500 and take control of the NFC South.