It’s the most anticipated NFC South showdown of the year. Ok, maybe not. But this game certainly could decide the direction these two teams take this season.
While the Bucs are looking for their best start since 2005 (Bucs finished 11-5 that season), the Saints are looking to save their season. It’s not that losing to Tampa is the end of the world… but falling to 3-3 would drop the defending champs two games behind Tampa and essentially 3 games behind the Falcons (assuming Atlanta wins).
LOOK TO THE AIR
Tampa Bay: The Bucs aren’t exactly unleashing the “greatest show on turf” but Josh Freeman is getting it done through the air. According to ESPN, Freeman (the reigning NFC offensive player of the week) leads all QBs in “air yards”, meaning the distance the ball is traveling on each pass. And despite their youth, the Bucs receivers have the 3rd fewest drops in the league.
New Orleans: Can we just admit that there’s something wrong with this team? Ask any fantasy owner, Drew Brees isn’t putting up the big numbers that took the Saints to the big game last year. So far, he’s thrown 9 TD’s and none has gone to “number one” WR Marques Colston. Even worse, the overall scoring is way down. Last year this team averaged 31.8 points per game. This year, just 19.8.
Advantage: Still have to give it to the Saints. The Bucs secondary has given up too many big plays through the air (ask Charlie Batch).
ON THE GROUND
Buccaneers: After running out of ways to call the Bucs running game terrible, I broke out the Thesaurus and came up with dreadful, frightful, horrendous, appalling, or grim. Last week the Bucs had 125 total rushing yards and that’s with a 61 yard carry by Earnest Graham. Maybe, just maybe, this is the week when LeGarrette Blount and Kareem Huggins get some real work.
Saints: Can’t really review the Saints running game fairly. No Reggie Bush and we don’t know if Pierre Thomas is going to play. If he does the Saints can run the ball, if he doesn’t they can’t. It really is that simple.
Advantage: Let’s call this a toss up. I wouldn’t trust any running back on either team unless his name is Pierre.
GOING ON THE DEFENSIVE
Buccaneers: I think I was a little too harsh on the defensive line after last week’s game. I watched a replay and while the line gave up a lot of yards to Cedric Benson, he really earned them. And they may not have recorded a sack, but the pressure was in Carson Palmer’s face all game. I think they have a chance to get after Brees this week, especially with his limited mobility.
Saints: The defense has recorded at least one turnover in every game this season, but the big plays on defense haven’t come to them like last year. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams isn’t afraid to dial up the blitz and Freeman struggled against the Bengals’ pressure last week.
Advantage: Both teams have turned over the ball quite a bit this year (the Saints nine times in the last 3 games, the Bucs at least twice a game in 3 out of 4 games). Still, I give the slight edge to New Orleans because of better defensive line play.
Advantage: Buccaneers. When Garrett Hartley is only your kicker because his 48 year old replacement wasn’t better… you’re not good. Hartley blew the game against the Bucs last year and did the same against the Falcons this year. Connor Barth has been money…. and Michael Spurlock is due for a big return.
THE FINAL WORD
Over the past few years the Saints have been a better team than the Bucs, but Tampa has found a way to win (missed field goal, Reggie Bush reverse fumble come to mind). This time though, the Saints are coming off a bad loss and need a win to stay in the NFC South race. The Bucs have a bright future, but at present don’t have the big play ability to keep up with Drew Brees and Sean Payton.
My prediction: Saints 24, Buccaneers 17
About the Author
Written by Justin Chechourka
Born and raised in California, I inexplicably became a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. Now I bleed red and pewter. The best part of being a Bucs fan in California... I never have to worry about blackouts.