Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
The Bucs are coming off a sensational 55-40 win against the Los Angeles Rams that featured big plays by both sides of the ball. Jameis Winston had arguably the best game of his career and has people like myself wondering, has Bruce Arians helped Winston turn the corner on the quarterback position? Maybe, time will tell. Shaq Barrett also continued his campaign for Defensive Player of the Year honors and of course, a big payday, but, can he keep that up? Maybe, time will tell. There are a lot of questions surrounding Tampa and the month of October will show us who this team is. It starts in New Orleans, these are my Top 5 things I want to see from the Bucs against the Saints:
1. Is Tampa for real?
If Matt Gay would have had made the game-winning field goal against the New York Giants, we could be talking about a 3-1 record for Tampa, but, we can’t do would of, could of, should of, in the NFL. Instead, the Bucs are looking like a potential top team in the NFC after coming out with a win in LA. If we base things on history, Tampa will fall apart and go back to being one of the worst teams in the NFL. But this team has a different feel to it, Winston is playing better, the defense is making plays, and the Bucs are playing with some confidence. BA’s leadership skills are spreading across the team. If Tampa wants to prove they are a contender, then it starts in the Big Easy. They have to beat the Drew Brees-less Saints.
2. Will Jameis Winston continue his ascension?
Winston is coming off a 28/41 for 385 yards and 3 touchdowns performance against the Rams. He did throw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, but one thing that impressed me was that he and the rest of the team didn’t fall apart like they would in the past and continued to put the pedal to the metal to not give up the lead in the 4th quarter. He still has some things he will need to clean up in his game, but this is the type of tape that he and his coaching staff can build upon. Just like the organization, we can’t assume that this will be a continued success. He has a chance to shine in New Orleans and if he can play as he did in LA, then the Bucs will have a chance to start a winning streak on Sunday.
3. Can Shaq Barrett sustain his success in October?
If you listened to my Monday episode of Cody Talks NFL, then you should know that I believe Barrett is currently the early front-runner to hold the Defensive Player of the Year trophy at the end of the season. His stat line of 9 sacks, 1 INT, 3 FF, 2 PD, 20 tackles, and 7 tackles for a loss are one of the most impressive starts in the history of the NFL. He also leads the league with 28 quarterback pressures so he has been a disruptive force for the Tampa defense. For a player that took a gamble of himself on a prove-it deal, he has put himself in position for a big payday in the offseason. If he wants to get that deal while helping lead his team to victories then he will need to at least keep up this effort and play. With JPP potentially on the way, the Bucs could quietly get one of the better pass rush duos in the league if Barrett keeps it up and JPP plays as he did in 2018.
4. Will Ronald Jones or Peyton Barber crack the code against the Saints’ run defense?
The Saints are coming off a huge win over the Dallas Cowboys and a big part of that was because they held Ezekial Elliott to 35 yards on 18 rushes, averaging 1.9 yards per carry. In that effort, New Orleans continued their 26 straight games of not allowing a 100-yard rusher, the best streak in the NFL. Jones is coming off a game where he out-touched Barber and looked like the better back. Jones has been showing flashes of what he can be in Arians’ scheme and is about to explode in the Bucs offense. Could that be in a crucial NFL South matchup with the Saints? If it is, then he could add another element to this offense and make it difficult for future opponents to gameplan for.
5. Can the defense force Teddy Bridgewater to beat them?
While Bridgewater has down enough to help lead the Saints to a 2-0 record without Brees this season, his play hasn’t been a major reason why New Orleans beat the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys. He hasn’t done a good job of pushing the ball down the field through the air and has struggled in long third-down situations. Tampa has shown the capability to get a bunch of points on the scoreboard in the first half over the past couple of weeks. If they can repeat that success and hold the Saints out of the endzone, then they could force them to put the ball in Bridgewater’s hands and make him push the issue more often. If they can do this and force him into bad decisions, then that should help increase the Bucs chances of walking out with the win.