On the back of a incredible upset win against the Los Angeles Rams in LA, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to New Orleans to face a resilient Saints team that shut down the Dallas Cowboys in the dome last week.
Since New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees has been injured, the Saints have played two undefeated teams, both destined for the playoffs, and beat them both. These were two incredibly impressive team wins, the first on the road against the Seattle Seahawks and the second at home against ‘America’s Team’, the Dallas Cowboys.
The battle for the NFC South is still up for grabs with the Carolina Panthers seemingly improving without quarterback Cam Newton and sitting at 2-2, level with the Bucs. The Atlanta Falcons defense is suffering from injuries again and fading fast at 1-3. At this point, they are on the outside looking in, even though we’re only at the quarter way point of the season.
Since the Saints suffered their only loss this season against the LA Rams, which included the loss of future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, the whole team has rallied and helped carry the team to 3-1. Last week against the Cowboys, the defense played lights out, holding one of the most prolific offenses to only ten points. Safety Vonn Bell, who leads the Saints in tackles, also forced a fumble against the Cowboys while his partner Marcus Williams stepped up and snagged his second interception of the season last week.
The Saints defense starts up front with All-Pro Cameron Jordan, the MVP of the defense. Joining #94 on the D-line, there’s Trey Hendrickson who leads the teams in sacks with three so far. The linebackers are led in the middle by last year’s free agent star linebacker Demario Davis, who joined from the New York Jets and has been a great locker room leader. He has also taken over the pre-game huddle in Brees’s absence.
This week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town on the back of a extremely impressive win against the Rams. The normally stuttering Bucs offense has really turned a corner these last two weeks, with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich finding a way to unlock quarterback Jameis Winston’s strong arm. One of the most interesting match-ups this week will be the Buccaneers’ wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, a lethal 1-2 combination, against the Saints defensive backs led by former defensive rookie of the year Marshon Lattimore.
Bruce Arians, a well-respected Head Coach, came out of retirement for the Buccaneers and he’s brought his friends with him, with former New York Jets HC Todd Bowles showing why he’s considered a great Defensive Coordinator. The Bucs have been fantastic against the run this year, leading the NFL while shutting down running backs like Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey. This week, they will attempt to make the Saints beat them in the air, which will be very interesting seeing as, since Teddy Bridgewater took over the starting role, he has yet to pass for more than 200 yards in a game.
A key match-up this week will be the New Orleans Saints standout left tackle Terron Armstead, who will attempt to stop Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett. He currently leads the NFL with an outstanding nine sacks, while the Buccaneers as a whole only have 11. Another battle on the line will be how rookie center Erik McCoy will fair against the star-studded defensive tackles the Bucs possess in Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh. If the Bucs can win these battles, it could be a very long day for Sean Payton and the Saints offense.
Overall, the Saints play their best football at home in the dome and I believe they will overcome the resurgent Buccaneers. It’s hard to bet against them after back-to-back wins against playoff teams so I’ll go with the Saints by a field goal.
Prediction: Saints 20, Buccaneers 17
Feature Picture – Credit: Butch Dill/AP Photo