Welcome to redemption week for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. As the team entered into the 2020 season, the Tampa Bay fan base was at an all-time high as far as hype and expectations were concerned. Facing the Division rival Saints to start the year seemed to be the best barometer for success heading into the year.
For fans who have repressed the memory of week one, here’s a quick reminder:
- After scoring on the first drive, the Buccaneers gave up 24 unanswered points
- Tom Brady threw two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown
- Buccaneers special teams had a blocked field goal attempt
- Final Score: Saints 34 – Bucs 23
After the game was over, the NFL community began their inevitable knee-jerking and prognosticating about a long season being ahead for the Bucs. Looking back at the last eight weeks and we can see a lot has changed since then. For both Tampa Bay and New Orleans. Let take a look at how the Saints of Week 9 matchup against the new and improved Buccaneers.
Here’s How The Saints Measure Up
Michael Thomas is looking on par to return to the field against the Buccaneers Sunday Night. Or is he? All signs are pointing to yes, but that was the assumption last week. The question of whether he’s will be 100% is also worth asking. The last time Thomas played the Buccaneers he finished with a career receiving lows against Carlton Davis.
Assuming Thomas can play (Currently questionable) here is the rest of the key injury report for the Saints:
- Marquez Callaway (Ankle – Questionable for week 9)
- Nick Easton (Concussion – Questionable for week 9)
- Sheldon Rankins (Knee – Questionable for week 9)
- Emmanuel Sanders (Covid – IR)
- Rush yards per game (19th – 119.3) / Pass yards per game (7th – 266.6)
- Rush Touchdowns per game (6th – 1.3) / Pass Touchdowns per game (13th – 1.9)
- Rush yards allowed per game (3rd – 90.6) / Pass yards allowed (17th – 237.9)
- Rush Touchdowns allowed per game (4th – 0.7) / Pass Touchdowns allowed (32nd – 2.7)
Looking at the Defensive rankings it’s a good outlook for the Buccaneers passing offense. Currently, they’re the 4th ranked scoring offense through the air. On the other hand, the Saints rush defense has been among the league’s elite. Either way, you slice it, this game is going to come down to the play within the trenches.
What We Might Expect
Even with Payton calling the plays and a still elite passer in Drew Brees, the Saints are one of the more balanced play-callers in the league with a 57% pass play tendency. This is currently the 19th least amount of pass plays called per game. With a healthy return of Thomas and facing an improved Buccaneers defense, the Saints might be looking to pad that percentage on Prime Time Sunday night.
In week one, Brees only completed 18 passes on 30 attempts for 180 yards and two Touchdowns. It fairly deceiving looking at the box score, but this is how much turnovers can affect a game.
However, since week one the Saints are averaging less than one turnover per game with a +1 turnover margin. Comparing to Tampa Bay and their multiple turnover game opener? +6 differential with almost a turnover per game average (0.8 per game).
As usual, these types of matchups are going to be decided by who makes the least amount of mistakes.
On Sunday Night Football the stars come out to shine and the Saints almost always shine bright in Prime Time. Alvin Kamara is a world-beater Running Back who is winning games by himself. Drew Brees is past his prime but still has everything you would want between the ears at Quarterback. Sean Payton is finding ways to score with his 3rd string Quarterback playing several positions.
At no point can this Buccaneers team take their foot off the gas or play it safe. Hopefully, they were humbled by a near-win against the 1-6 New York Giants on Monday. They will lose to the Saints 10/10 times if they come out as flat as they did.