The New Orleans Saints will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday in an NFC south divisional showdown. The Saints won the first meeting between the two teams back in week seven with a final score of 35-28. The first match-up was a shootout that came down to the wire and I could see their second match-up having a similar outcome.
This game will feature two teams that have great offenses, but not very good defenses — with the exception of the Buccaneers’ run defense. With that said, both teams do not fare very well against the pass so look for this game to have a very high score.
This game does not mean much for either team in terms of playoff chances. The Saints are basically out of the hunt for a playoff berth and the Buccaneers do not fare much better. Furthermore, both teams are currently on three-game losing streaks and just looking to end the season on a high note. Something has to give in this match-up and it will come down to some key factors.
Saints X Factor: The Saints x factor for this week will be running back Mark Ingram. Ingram had a season high 68 rushing yards in the Saints 52-27 loss to the New York Giants. Ingram is starting to show that he can be a good running back and what better test for him than the number one ranked run defense of the Buccaneers. Drew Brees’ interception woes continue so I would like to see the Saints look for Ingram early and often. Ingram leads the team in carries with 111, first in rushing touchdowns with three, and is second in rushing yards with 420. Ingram will have to do his part to carry the offensive load and open up the passing game for Brees.
Buccaneers X Factor: The Buccaneers x factor for this week will be Ingram’s counterpart, rookie running back Doug Martin. I know this game is expected to be a shootout, but it will be the play of the running backs that will determine this game. Martin has been sensational all season and he should have a field day against the Saints’ 32nd ranked run defense. Not only would the ground game open things up for quarterback Josh Freeman, but Martin could single-handedly win this game for the Buccaneers.
How the Saints can win this game: The Saints will win this game by sticking to their game plan. The Saints are most effective when they have a balanced offensive attack; however, in this game, I would look for Brees to hand the ball off more than he throws it. Furthermore, Brees needs to limit his turnovers because that has been detrimental to the team in this three-game losing streak. If the Saints can run the ball effectively in this game then Brees should be able to take care of the rest despite all of the interceptions he has had lately.
How the Buccaneers can win this game: The Buccaneers will win this game if they utilize their entire offensive repertoire and if they can stop the run. The Buccaneers have three great pieces in Freeman, Martin, and wide receiver Vincent Jackson and if the three of them have big games they will win this game. Furthermore, the Buccaneers have the best rush defense in the NFL and they need to show the Saints why. The Buccaneers have all the tools to beat the Saints this time around they just need to use it and they will win this game.
Final Prediction: If this game turns out to be a shootout, I think the Saints will have the edge despite Brees’ recent turnovers; however, if this game turns into a battle on the ground I have to give the advantage to the Buccaneers and Martin. With all of that said I have to give a slight edge to the Saints. The Saints are playing at home against a divisional rival and their morale has to be up with the closure of Bountygate. I think the Saints will win a close one again 30-23.