Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
Tampa is coming off a win where they had to avoid an upset by the New Giants, winning 25-23. It would appear that they may have gotten caught looking ahead to their rematch with the Saints on Sunday. Fortunately for them, they found a way to leave Monday night with a victory and have their sights set on New Orleans as they look to get revenge from their Week 1 loss. Since the opening week, both teams have taken a different path as the Bucs have gained respect as a Super Bowl contender while grabbing the lead of the NFC South and the team from the Big Easy has questions surrounding their identity, despite their 5-2 record. A lot will be on the line on Sunday night, the winner of this matchup will have a pathway to winning the division, and potentially the #1 seed in the NFC. This is definitely a can’t-miss game, so here are this week’s Top 5 things I want to see:
1. How does Antonio Brown fit in?
All eyes will be on the Tampa passing attack on Sunday night as AB will be making his first appearance as a Buc. Not only he will be in the lineup, but Chris Godwin is will be back from his latest injury. Brown, Godwin, and Mike Evans form the best WR triplet in the NFL, which will be a nightmare for defensive coordinators to figure out. The biggest question, who will lead in targets? Rob Gronkowski will also have a say in that. Regardless, the Saints defense will have their hands full as they will be the first unit to face this offense that will feature all their skill position players for the first time.
2. Do they win the turnover battle this time?
The biggest factor in why the Buccaneers lost in Week 1 was that New Orleans forced 3 turnovers, which included a pick-6. The defense failed to get their hands on the ball and the team just could never make up for the deficiencies of the offense. Since then, the offense has gotten better at protecting the ball, and the defense is tied for the most takeaways in the league with 14. With the division on the line, they will need to add to that total and put their offense in a great position to succeed for the majority of the night. The winner of this battle will win this game.
3. Can Leonard Fournette or Ronald Jones end the Saints streak?
The New Orleans defense hasn’t allowed a player to rush over 100 yards in 50 straight games. In 2020, they hold the 3rd best rushing defense in the NFL, only allowing 90.6 YPG on the ground. Both players have been limited to 15 carries or less since Fournette returned to the lineup in the past 2 games. With it being a two-back committee, plus the number of weapons in the passing attack, odds say that the streak will continue. But, if one of them gets going early, maybe Bruce Arians decides to ride with the hot hand. With all the eyes on how Tom Brady can attack them through the air, maybe that opens up rushing lanes, and the offense can wreak havoc on the ground.
4. Will the defense ‘contain’ Alvin Kamara again?
The Bucs have been the only defense to hold Kamara to less than 100 scrimmage yards this season. He only gained 16 yards on 12 rushes but had 51 yards and a touchdown on 5 receptions. Kamara is having an Offensive Player of the Year performance thus far and has been the biggest reason why the Saints have won their games. Michael Thomas will be making his return to the lineup so the New Orleans offense won’t have to lean on him as much, but that shouldn’t stop Lavonte David and Devin White keeping their eyes on the special back. If the defense can limit Kamara’s impact then that will improve their chances of getting a win.
5. Can the offensive line hold up without Ali Marpet?
Marpet has been ruled out of the game due to the concussion that he suffered against the Giants. The offensive line entered the season as the biggest question mark on the Bucs offense, despite the performance in the 2 losses, the line has done an outstanding job. They are tied at 2nd, only allowing 1.2 sacks per game. But, the loss of their best offensive lineman will have some type of impact on the unit’s performance. Joe Haeg will be taking his place, he does have previous experience and will be asked to not miss a beat in this crucial matchup. If the Saints can get any type of consistent pressure on Brady, then it could turn into a long night for Bucs fans.