The New Orleans Saints will square off against their divisional rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday in Tampa Bay. The Saints will be looking for their second win of the season as they hope to improve to 2-4. The Buccaneers on the other hand are coming off of a big win against the Kansas City Chiefs and will look to improve to .500 against the Saints.
Some would say that this game is a must-win for the Saints and I would agree with that statement. If the Saints can beat the Buccaneers then the two teams would have identical records of 2-4, but the Saints would own a tie-breaker. The road to saving their season starts in Tampa Bay for the Saints.
The Saints will square off against former teammate Carl Nicks after he spurned them in the off-season to sign with Tampa Bay. Also, the Saints are hoping that Jonathan Vilma’s presence will help the defense out and stop the run. I think this game will be a good matchup that features good offenses but terrible defenses. However, I do not think that Josh Freeman could beat Drew Brees in a shootout if it came down to it.
Here is the injury report for both teams as of today Friday, October 19, 2012. Courtesy of NFL.com:
Travaris Cadet RB Shoulder Full Participation in Practice Probable
Jonathan Casillas LB Neck Full Participation in Practice Probable
Jahri Evans G Toe Full Participation in Practice Probable
Jimmy Graham TE Ankle Limited Participation in Practice Questionable
Jabari Greer CB Groin Full Participation in Practice Probable
David Hawthorne LB Hamstring Did Not Participate In Practice Out
Turk McBride DE Ankle Full Participation in Practice Probable
Lance Moore WR Hamstring Full Participation in Practice Probable
Scott Shanle LB Illness Full Participation in Practice Probable
Vincent Jackson WR Calf Limited Participation in Practice Probable
Carl Nicks G Foot Full Participation in Practice Probable
Saints X Factor: This week the Saints x factor has to be linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Vilma will be making his 2012 season debut and there will no doubt be a lot of emotion surrounding him. The Saints need Vilma to have a good game because the Saints defense has been less than spectacular this season. Vilma should give the Saints a boost on defense and help stop the run. Vilma will have a lot to prove in this game and show everyone that he can still be an effective football player despite the off-season controversy.
Buccaneers X Factor: For the Buccaneers the x factor this week will be wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Jackson was the marquee free agent pick-up for the Buccaneers this off-season but so far has only had an okay season. For the season Jackson has made 20 receptions for 370 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Josh Freeman should look for Jackson early and often and he could have a big game against the Saints’ thin secondary.
How the Saints can win this game: The Saints can win this game if they pass the ball early and often. I know I have been saying that the Saints need to run the ball more, and they still should, but with this matchup the Saints need to let Drew Brees go to work. The Buccaneers are ranked 31st in pass defense as they give up 312.2 yards a game. If Brees and his receivers can connect often than the Saints will win this game as they should be able to outscore the Buccaneers.
How the Buccaneers can win this game: While I think the Buccaneers definitely need Jackson to have a big game they will also need to establish a ground game to give them balance on the offensive end. The Saints are ranked 31st in rushing defense as they give up 172.8 yards on the ground. If Freeman can connect with Jackson and if the Buccaneers can open up their ground game they will be able to beat the Saints.
Final Prediction: This game is a must-win game for the Saints and I think they have a very good chance of winning. They are playing on the road and it will be a difficult game given that they are playing a divisional rival. The Saints should be able to light up the scoreboard and hopefully Vilma’s return will boost their defense. The Buccaneers on the other hand have the tools to stop the Saints and crush their hope of a turn around. However, I predict the Saints win this game with a final score of 33-27.