The Saints open their regular season campaign up against the division opponent Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The long awaited return of Saints football is finally over and they open up the season in what is going to be an insanely loud and raucous audience. All over the Superdome now are reminders to the fans that the city is within its final moments of silence. The Saints are looking promising this year, with young and fresh talent returning from the recent successful draft classes and a new and exciting couple of prospects to boot. The Saints made some key offseason additions and are now looking to the Bucs as their first proof of concept.
The Saints and Bucs played their first game against one another in 1977.
Over the 52 games they’ve played, the Saints lead the series heavily 32-20
Since 2006 (Payton-Brees era) the Saints lead 15-9 over 24 games.
When the Payton-Bridgewater era begins the Saints will be undefeated against the Bucs.
Saints own an 18-11 record against Tampa Bay in New Orleans. 8-4 since 2006. Also this:
Last season, though the series was split, the Saints played well against this Tampa Bay team that has now improved along the defensive line. The Saints put together several impressive moments throughout both games including Marcus Williams’ two interception game and Alvin Kamara’s kickoff return TD in Week 17 and Justin Hardee’s blocked punt TD in Week 9. The Saints will look to string together those two elements of special teams and defense along with a refueled offense to open this season.
Saints WRs vs. Bucs Secondary
The Bucs secondary is playing thin this week due to Brent Grimes and De’Vante Harris being out this week (Harris was actually moved to the IR). Second-round pick CB M.J. Stewart and Safety Justin Evans are also both coming off injuries. The Saints had some sloppy wide receiver play in the preseason according to Sean Payton. This game should remedy that. Check out the Saints top two receivers, Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn, Jr. against the Bucs last year against defenders not named Brent Grimes
Ted Ginn, Jr. – 7 catches, 92 yards, and a touchdown on 9 targets
Michael Thomas – 13 catches for 159 yards on 18 targets. (Can you believe CGM hasn’t caught a TD against the Bucs yet?)
At corner tomorrow, the Bucs will be starting young players Vernon Hargreaves, Carlton Davis, MJ Stewart, and Ryan Smith. Look for Thomas, Ginn, and Meredith (if he gets to run free) to torch the secondary if the offensive line continues to play as well as it did last season.
Saints Olinve vs. Bucs Dline
The Saints Oline will likely be without Andrus Peat for some of the game, rumors are that he’ll only play a half. So the Bucs improved defensive line which added Jason Pierre-Paul this offesason, won’t be facing the full force of the Saints protections. It’s imperative that the Saints offensive line keeps Brees’ pocket clean as in 2017 he didn’t throw a single touchdown and only compiled a 54.6% completion percentage while under pressure. The Saints pass protection didn’t allow Brees to have to play out of pressure very much last season though allowing pressure on only 21.7% of passing snaps, best of the NFL.
Alvin Kamara vs. Bucs Defense
It really feels like it’s the entire defense vs. Kamara for the Bucs. There’s such a focus on making sure he doesn’t run wile, and for good reason. Kamara compiled 250 yards from scrimmage against the Bucs last year on just 35 touches.In an article I wrote last season, the magic number for Kamara and the Saints is 12. When Kamara gets at least 12 touches the Saints average game score jumps more than a touchdown. Since Kamara is shaping up to be more of a lead-back with Gillislee and Johnathan Williams sharing the Ingram workload, there’s no doubt he’ll see at least 12 touches. It’s just up to his matchup with the Bucs defense to see what he can make of them.
Players to Watch
Ted Ginn Jr.
I think everyone expects a big game from Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, but I think Ted Ginn, Jr. might be in the position to eat against these young and inexperienced corners. Ginn is still fast as hell and his veteran savvy should fair well against the young secondary.
Can you believe this is the first time I’ve mentioned what Drew Brees might do this entire article? That’s the wonder of this Saints team. When your Hall of Fame Quarterback is an afterthought to the rest of the talent that surrounds him, you’re in a good position. I think Drew Brees will shred this Bucs defense, as long as the offensive line can keep him clean. If they can’t and Brees doesn’t have a lights out game to open the season, don’t fret. The two times Brees threw for under 200 yards last year the Saints scored 47 points against the Bills and 52 against the Lions.
Lattimore has a pick against the Falcons and a pick against the Panthers but currently none against the Bucs. Can he make Fitzmagic his next victim? I think yes. The always entertaining matchup against Mike Evans will also be revived early this season. Lattimore held him to 1 catch for 13 yards in his coverage week 9 of last year and in week 17 he locked him up against allowing 2 catches for 25 yards on 5 targets in his coverage. Expect more of the same from this matchup and for the Bucs to eventually focus on Chris Godwin and Peyton Barber, two players that can give the Saints fits.
This is just an extra deal for me. I’ll be interested to see how the addition of Demario Davis will affect this Saints second-level defense. They’ll be tested early and often, I suspect by one of my favorite fantasy options Peyton Barber. If they can contain him, there’s a big positive outlook moving ahead to the rest of the season.
First game back since the Minneapolis Miracle. He’s coming for the Bucs this game. He had a hell of an offseason and this is his chance to complete his reset process and start anew in 2018. Look for a Pro Bowl and potentially All-Pro year from the young safety and it all starts in the Dome tomorrow.
Saints win 24-17
Saints start off hot and the Bucs make a push at the end, but it’ll be too little too late. Saints will win their opening game for the first time since 2013 and start their road to a hot beginning of the season.
Bonus: Panthers lose to the Cowboys and Saints are the only team in the NFC South with a win after opening week.
Follow Ross on Twitter @RossJacksonASC