The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a good start to the 2020 season sitting at 7-3. The biggest problem for these Buccaneers has been their divisional foe, the New Orleans Saints (7-2). After losing the divisional series 0-2 to New Orleans, the Buccaneers own a 2-2 record in the division.
Those two wins?
Against the Carolina Panthers.
Two Games Vs Carolina
Carolina has been a competitive team in 2020 especially when you consider the fact that they have played most of their games without star running back Christian McCaffrey. Tampa Bay just has been a different class of opponent for the Panthers.
The Buccaneers have beaten the Panthers handily thanks to a strong running game and an opportunistic defense. In the two games between the teams, Tampa Bay owns a 5:3 Turnover ratio. Thirdly, the offense has averaged 38.5 points per game against the Panthers.
Scoring that many points alone is nearly enough to beat any team in the NFL, but the defense has done its part as well. In the first game alone, the Buccaneers forced four turnovers and controlled the scoring, only allowing a 50% conversion rate in the redzone. In other words, holding the Panthers from scoring touchdowns on two of their redzone opportunities helped big, especially in a two score game.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater moved the ball well in week two for Carolina. The Panthers offense ran 71 offensive plays, averaging 6.0 yards a play. Tampa Bay’s defense just came up with timely sacks and stops when it mattered most.
The story is very different against New Orleans.
Two Games Vs New Orleans
Coming into the new season, Buccaneer fans, and most NFL fans, knew New Orleans would be the toughest opponent for Tom Brady and company. The Saints have won the NFC South the past three seasons. With quarterback Drew Brees still slinging the rock, the team hasn’t really missed a beat as they are currently in first place again. They control their own destiny for the divisional crown as they have swept the Buccaneers in their two games.
In week one, the main difference was the trenches. The offensive line for Tampa Bay couldn’t keep Brady clean as he was sacked three times. Comparing that to the one sack the Buccaneers registered, that was a big difference in pressure. Brees is considerably harder to sack as he has always had a quick release.
Secondly, turnovers killed the Buccaneers in this game as Brady threw two interceptions. Trying to come from behind and turning the ball over is how Tampa Bay lost their season last year. In the two games against New Orleans in 2020, it’s been the same story. The Buccaneers haven’t held a lead bigger against the Saints than a seven point lead held in week one.
Week 9 Debacle
In the week 9 matchup, it was much more of the same.
Much, much more.
The Buccaneers gave the ball up three more times as Brady had one of his worst games with the team, throwing three picks. Tampa Bay’s defense gave up a season high in points as New Orleans put 38 on the board. Brees looked flawless against the Buccaneers, going 22-36 for 222 yards and four touchdowns. It’s impossible to tell just how far the Buccaneers are from catching the Saints. Both sides looked completely awful for Tampa Bay.
In the two games versus the Saints, the Buccaneers have totally lost the turnover battle. They have given the ball up six total times compared to the two fumble recoveries. They have yet to pick off Brees in 2020. If this team is to play New Orleans again come playoff time, they’ll have to turn that ratio into a positive.
Sweeping a divisional opponent is always a great thing, but losing two games to your biggest rival for the division will be tough to swallow for the Buccaneers. If they have to travel in the playoffs and end up losing, these two games against New Orleans will be huge red marks on the season.