This week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will don their throwback jerseys, as they welcome the New Orleans Saints for the Bucs second divisional game of the year. The Bucs are coming off their most complete football game as a team in years, while the Saints are coming in off their bye week after getting their first win of the season.
Early indications show that the Buccaneers might actually sell out this game, which is likely due to the influx of Saints fans that will be in attendance. Regardless, all of the hype certainly has to bring the spirits of fans up. While it’s helpful that the team decided to wear their throwbacks this week — as it should boost attendance — from a historical context, the Saints are the first team the Buccaneers defeated as a franchise.
Josh Freeman and the offense have really been in sync through their last six quarters of play. During that span, Freeman and Vincent Jackson have connected for three touchdowns, and your starting to see Jackson, and Mike Williams take over football games.
This week I expect nothing less, as the Saints come in allowing some of the biggest plays in the league. All of the Buccaneers receivers should be able to win their match ups. Couple that with how well the offensive line has been playing, and a poor Saints pass rush could equal another huge day for Freeman & Company.
It was nice to see LeGarrette Blount get involved in the game early, and put it away late for them. I expect to see a lot of him this week again, in an effort to control the clock and keep Drew Brees off the field. Doug Martin had his best game to date last week, so for both backs to come out with the win this Sunday, they need to keep momentum up.
On the defensive side of the ball, the secondary is really going to be tested by Brees and his receiving corps. With Aqib Talib still suspended, the rest of the corners are going to have to be at the top of their games to slow down the Saints. Brees broke the record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass, and I don’t think that streak will end this week.
He will, however, have to wait till Sunday to see if his star tight end Jimmy Graham will be on the field. Right now he’s listed as questionable, but reports say that he is still struggling to walk. From a long-term health perspective, rushing his recovery for this week doesn’t seem like the best idea.
The Saints have been able to move the ball as usual all year, but have been borderline reprehensible on defense. Realistically, I don’t think a week off is going to fix their glaring holes on the defensive line. For whatever reason, that group has been pushed around, and the Bucs offensive line is likely salivating at the mere thought at getting after them, especially former Saint, Carl Nicks.
This will be the first time Nicks will go up against his former team, so I expect a big performance out of him. I think the Buccaneers offense will be able execute near seamlessly, but they will have to control the clock and limit the big plays.
The Buccaneers haven’t allowed a touchdown pass since week 2 against the New York Giants. Keeping that streak going this week will be a very difficult task.
All around, I think the Saints have been the worst team in the league so far, and a late victory against a San Diego Chargers team who can’t hold on to leads is far from impressive. In the end I think the Buccaneers get the victory.
In addition to the other elements, a major key to a win, will be applying pressure on Brees, and controlling the ball. This doesn’t mean that I don’t think that Freeman shouldn’t take his shots, as I think they are needed early to stretch the defense, and establish the run. I have the Buccaneers winning this one 35-24.