A bit different from the normal format as we already talked about this match-up prior to the week 5 encounter (shameless plug). In this preview I will look at how both teams have fared since that game and what to expect this time around.
Week 5 Recap:
The Saints won their 3rd straight game 31-24 at the Superdome against the Bucs. Michael Thomas was the standout with 182 yards off 11 catches and 2 Touchdowns. Teddy Bridgewater was under centre and Alvin Kamara chipped in with 100-odd scrimmage yards. The offensive line held the Bucs to 0 sacks.
This was the game where Marshon Lattimore shutdown Mike Evans for nothing but Chris Godwin had a good game on the other side of the field although some garbage time yardage was allowed. The D-Line recorded 6 total sacks of Jameis Winston and Marcus Davenport had two of them, as well as a forced fumble, a TFL and 3 QB hits. Cam Jordan was his usual beasty self with a sack of his own as well.
It was a pretty dominant performance for the Saints at home, so what has changed from this game to now?
The standout difference on offense is the fact that Drew Brees is back as the starting QB for the Saints. Teddy Bridgewater filled in excellently while he was gone but the future hall of famer is back and looking to make amends for last Sundays defeat.
The Saints are still without a standout wide receiver 2. Michael Thomas is burdening the load of the passing game. I say this most weeks but someone really needs to help him out. Not because Thomas isn’t showing he is the best receiver in the league, it’s because everyone else knows that. Therefore, they can take coverage away from other players and focus on Can’t Guard Mike. Seriously the Saints need either Ted Ginn Jr., Tre’Quan Smith or A.N. Another receiver (Dez) to be a factor in this game. It looks like Jared Cook will be stepping up to fill the pass catching void. Then again this may be the one game where the air game is okay with others not about, the leaky Tampa secondary aren’t the best at defending the pass. Now they are down Vernon Hargreaves as well following his release and other corners are listed on the injury report.
Another difference from week 5 is Alvin Kamara has been injured and returned. What we saw during his absence was the load carried by Latavius Murray. A plan that was literally thrown away last Sunday. 11 rushes. The Saints need to establish the run to take pressure off the passing game, they can do this with the tandem of Murray and Kamara. Different looks, utilising both of RBs. This Bucs run D is very good however but if the saints stick to their game plans, they might grind them down enough to make a difference and dominate the time of possession, especially into the 4th quarter.
An underrated player in the run game is Josh Hill who missed the Falcons game. His run blocking will help gain momentum and should assist the O-Line as well. Andrus Peat will be out for this one and likely the rest of the regular season so a new player at left guard will need to step up – be that Nick Easton or Will Clapp a big O-Line performance is needed here to make amends for last weeks poor outing.
On defense the Saints may be without Marshon Lattimore. This is huge. Currently he is rated as Did Not Practise / questionable and may not be good to go for Sunday. This will involve having Eli Apple and PJ Williams most likely covering Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. I don’t like the sound of that. Not because they are bad players but because this is one of the best wideout tandems in the league and you need your best corner available to hold them down. Safety support will be required in the passing game. The safeties have been great this season and I expect a pick by at least one of them.
The run game and defense is pretty much the same although the Saints will look to bounce back from a poor showing against the falcons.
I expect the pass rush to have a good week again too. That proved important in the last game with Winston not dealing with pressure very well. Jordan and Davenport will need to get in his face (but no hands to the face….) and tackle him for losses.
Since week 5 the Saints have gone 3-1 and had a bye week sandwiched in there. This will be their first road game in about a month as well.
The Bucs have gone 1-3, also with a bye week but the win was their last outing whereas the Saints last outing was their loss.
It’s a divisional game so anything can happen as we found out last Sunday. These two teams like to split their series as well, the Saints have taken the first so history will tell you the Bucs should win this one but I’m backing the black and gold on the road.
I’ve got this one down as a bit of a shootout if Lattimore is injured and I’m playing a guy with both Bucs wideouts on his fantasy so that doesn’t bode well. Still, I’ve the saints to bounce back and get the W on the road with Michael Thomas having another huuuuuuge game, I’m talking 200+ and Drew Brees back to his best. The secondary will be targeted a lot and will give up yards but the run D will come to play and Jameis will eat grass a few times to stop it being a home win. Wil Lutz may have to play his part late on as well to seal the deal.
Saints 35 – 32 Bucs