You can count on one hand the amount of games that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost this year. So an opportunity to exact revenge for one of those losses doesn’t come around very often. That’s the opportunity the Bucs will have this week when they host the New Orleans Saints.
The last time these two teams met it was a 36-27 Halloween defeat in New Orleans. Tom Brady threw a pair of interceptions including a late pick six to seal the game. However, that seems to be a very different Bucs team than the one we’ve seen in recent weeks. The Bucs have won four in a row and are playing much more polished than they were early in the season.
The Saints have looked like a very different team since the last time these two met as well. They are just 1-5 since that big win over the Buccaneers. Now with their playoff hopes fading away, the Saints are trying to scratch and claw their way to the postseason after starting the year 5-2. Here’s what you need to know about the current version of the New Orleans Saints.
Missing Jameis Winston
It was unfortunate that Jameis Winston suffered a season ending injury the last time these two teams played. It’s no coincidence that the Saints season has spiraled down the drain since that time. Now it will be long time special teams star / tight end / wide receiver / quarterback Taysom Hill to lead the offense.
Hill has thrown for 495 yards with 2 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in limited action this year. He has also rushed for 201 yards and a pair of touchdowns this season. Hill is a very impressive athlete who can do damage in the dual threat quarterback role. Keeping him contained in the pocket will be critical for stopping this Saints offense.
Defense Still Dangerous
Despite the losses and ineptitude with the Saints offense, the defense is still a respectable unit. Led by Demario Davis, Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore along with a cast of quality players surrounding them, this defense is essentially as good as it’s been in recent memory.
Holding the Bucs under 30 points is no easy task. Intercepting Tom Brady multiple times in a game might be even more difficult. This Saints defense managed to do both the last time they played. Despite this Saints team seemingly falling apart, the defense has still held their opponents under 30 points all but twice this season.
Lock It Up
This is a critical game in terms of the NFC South standings. If the Buccaneers win this game then they lock up their first division crown since 2007. If the Saints win this game then they keep their hopes alive to win the division for the fifth consecutive year.
It seems like a forgone conclusion that the Bucs will win the division this year. However, there feels like some poetic justice to take that crown by knocking off the defending champions. The passing of the torch, so to speak. That’s what’s on the line for these teams this weekend.
The Saints offense has struggled with no dependable quarterback. They still have Alvin Kamara and a defense that causes problems, so this isn’t a team that can be taken lightly. Expect a typical hard fought NFC South divisional battle in this one between two teams that want to beat the other in a big way.
Saints – 20
Bucs – 31