X-Factor Matchup: Buccaneers vs.Saints

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter week two of the regular season after a dominating win over the Dallas Cowboys. Next they will travel to New Orleans to face off against an old rival in the Saints. This game should be considerably more difficult.

The Bucs have struggled with the Saints in recent years. In fact, they haven’t beat them in the regular season since Tom Brady came to town. This is a trend that the team will look to break come Sunday.

This is a matchup between two good teams. There will be many individual battles that will shape the outcome of this game. However, there is one that stands out to me as this week’s X-Factor Matchup.

Buccaneers Receivers vs. Saints Secondary

The Bucs struggled to find the end zone in week one. Their only touchdown came from a Brady pass to Mike Evans in their 19-3 win. This struggle to score could be the case this week after a few key injuries in that first win.

Chris Godwin made his return to the field last week after season ending surgery the last time he saw the Saints. Unfortunately, his return didn’t last as long as we had hoped after suffering a hamstring injury that took him out of the game in the second quarter. He will very likely miss this game.

This will leave Evans as the go to target with new comers Julio Jones and Russell Gage as the focus of the passing attack. Jones had a good game in the opener and flashed moments of the Hall of Fame ability that we saw over his career with the Falcons. However, it’s obvious that this new look receiver group is still building chemistry with Brady.

This will be a hard opponent to connect against. The Saints have one of the best secondaries in the NFL. They have been particularly problematic for the Bucs in this recent losing streak.

The battles between Evans and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore have been well documented. Both have had their share of wins and their games where they got the better of the other. This means that it’s no sure thing that Evans can be the focal point of the passing offense this week.

Apart from this individual matchup, the rest of the secondary is also difficult to go against. Tyrann Mathieu joined the Saints in the offseason after being a key part of the Chiefs and their success in going to four consecutive AFC championships. He will be someone who can neutralize the middle of the field and help over the top.

This means trouble for the tight ends like Cameron Brate and Cade Otton. It also means a tough matchup for the slot, which will likely be a lot of Gage. With all these weapons and Evans held in check, it will be hard for the Bucs to score.

It’s also worth mentioning the former Buccaneers second round pick Justin Evans is now starting for the Saints. It was thought that his career might be over a few years ago due to injuries, but he has worked his way back and is healthy once again. He replaced C.J. Gardner-Johnson who was traded to the Eagles a few weeks ago.

We know that Evans is a ballhawk safety when on the field. Brady will have to be careful when targeting him in the nickel and over the top. He is just another example of how good this New Orleans back end is on their defense.

There’s no denying how good this Saints secondary is. They’re a matchup problem for every team in the NFL; even one as talented as the Bucs. It will be strength against strength in this X-Factor matchup and it’s one the Buccaneers have to win if they want to start the season 2-0.

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