IT’S SAINTS WEEK!
Tampa Bay fans consider this a rivalry, even if Todd Bowles doesn’t. If you’re like me, you HATE the Saints; like H-A-T-E them with a passion. I hate the Saints the same way that I used to hate the Eagles and Rams. Even more so; since they’re in our division. And every time they beat the Bucs, the hatred grows more and more. New Orleans has won seven of their last eight meetings with the Bucs, including that gut-wrenching 9-0 loss in Tampa last year. So this game is not just a rivalry for me; it’s THE rivalry, especially with Jameis Winston at quarterback.
The Saints are coming off of a last-second field goal win against the Atlanta Falcons last week, while the Bucs went to Dallas and convincingly beat the Cowboys. I think the Bucs players have had this game circled on their calendars since the schedule came out. They want payback for that shutout loss at home. They want Jameis to eat an “L” instead of those dumbass “W’s” he likes to chomp on all the time. They want to show their head coach that this is a rivalry and should be treated as such every time. This is the game to do it. It’s a road game. It’s a division game. It’s a rivalry game. It’s the perfect storm.
So let’s talk about both of these teams and what we can expect from this Week 2 matchup between NFC South rivals.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The New Orleans Saints have entered a new era of football. Their longtime head coach Sean Payton retired; after last season, leaving defensive coordinator Dennis Allen as the new head coach. Jameis Winston took over for the retired Drew Brees at quarterback last season but suffered a season-ending injury early on. Now the Saints are starting the season Payton-less AND Brees-less for the first time in 15 years. They had a rough game against a not-so-good Falcons team last week, winning on a last-second field goal after trailing the entire game. So despite what the win-loss record is between these teams, they’ll have their hands full with a Buccaneers roster that’s loaded with talent.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
OFFENSE – LT James Hurst
Hurst is a career backup who spent the first six years of his nine-year career with the Ravens. He is starting at left tackle because 2022 rookie first-round pick Trevor Penning tore a ligament in his foot and is on IR until at least November. I’m sure that Shaq Barrett will be lined up across from him for most of this game, which is a clear mismatch. So look for Barrett to have a big day.
DEFENSE – CB Bradley Roby
With second-year cornerback Paulson Adebo officially “OUT” for this game, it leaves nine-year vet Bradley Roby playing the opposite of Marshon Lattimore. He will probably be responsible for covering Julio Jones since Lattimore will likely be on Mike Evans for most of the game. Roby used to be a pretty solid corner, but I’m not sure he still has the ability to stop Julio 2.0 from getting his touches.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The Bucs are coming off of a road win in Dallas against the always-overrated Cowboys, where they dominated on defense but left a bunch of points on the field on offense. Hopefully, they got their Red Zone issues straightened out in practice this week and can put together a better performance than the one in Texas. This is a HUGE game for the team AND the fans. It’s a division game on the road, which is always important to the team. And it’s the Saints, which might be the most hated team in the league for most Bucs fans right now. As far as Week 2 games go, they don’t get much bigger than this one.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
OFFENSE – TE Cade Otton
The Saints’ safeties will be preoccupied with giving over-the-top help to both corners, which could leave the middle of the field: Wide Open. Even though he didn’t have a target last week against the Cowboys, Otton could get opportunities down the seam in this game and should see targets in the Red Zone.
DEFENSE – DB Antoine Winfield Jr.
Winfield had a nice game against Dallas, playing in his new nickel safety position, and I expect it to continue in New Orleans. He should get plenty of opportunities at his second interception of the season with Jameis Winston at quarterback for the Saints.
1. Mike Evans vs. Marshon Lattimore
Father versus son. This matchup is always fun to watch and usually provides us with some kind of entertaining extra-curricular activities. Even though Evans typically dominates him, Lattimore is a tough, competitive corner, and Mike is nursing a sore calf muscle, so keep an eye on these two throughout the game.
2. Tom Brady vs. Tyrann Mathieu
These two crafty old vets have been going at it since Super Bowl LV when the Bucs beat the Chiefs. Now that he’s with the Saints, these two will see each other twice this season. This will be a chess match for the entire game, with Brady trying to look Mathieu off with his eyes and Mathieu trying to bait Brady into a dumb throw. It’s always fun to see two greats going at it, and this definitely fits the bill.
3. Cameron Jordan vs. Whoever
Whether it’s Donovan Smith with his injured elbow or a 100% healthy Josh Wells, Cameron Jordan will be a problem on Sunday. In their two games last season, he had 7 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss. No matter who starts at left tackle for the Bucs, Byron Leftwich will have to put someone over there to help block, whether it’s tight end Ko Kieft or Leonard Fournette chipping like he did last week against Micah Parsons.
The Buccaneers only have one player officially ruled “OUT” for this game, but unfortunately, that player is WR Chris Godwin (hamstring). CB Zyon McCollum (hamstring) and LT Donovan Smith (elbow) are listed as “DOUBTFUL“, so neither of them will likely play either. And they have six players listed as “QUESTIONABLE” who were all limited participants in Friday’s practice. They include WR Mike Evans (calf), RB Leonard Fournette (hamstring), WR Julio Jones (hamstring), WR Russell Gage (knee), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), and RT Tristan Wirfs (abdomen). Yes, Bucs fans, their top five wide receivers are ALL on the final injury report; however, I suspect all of them, with the exception of Godwin, will play.
New Orleans also has just one player officially ruled “OUT” for Sunday, which is starting cornerback CB Paulson Adebo (ankle). They also have six players listed as “QUESTIONABLE” on their injury report just like the Bucs. Those players include QB Jameis Winston (back), RB Alvin Kamara (ribs), RB Mark Ingram (ankle), RB Dwayne Washington (hamstring), WR Tre’Quan Smith (shoulder), and CB Alontae Taylor (hip). That means their top three running backs are on the injury report; however I expect all of those “questionable” guys to play as well.
Since 2011, the Saints are 17-5 against the Bucs. In fact, since Tom Brady’s arrival in Tampa Bay, the Bucs are 1-7 against them and 29-3 against everyone else. They have definitely had the Bucs number. Todd Bowles said that they can’t call this a rivalry because it’s been too one-sided. And I think these Bucs players are fed up with it, especially after being humiliated and shut out at home 9-0 in their last meeting. Trust me, this team has been thinking about that game all week, and they’ll take their frustrations out on the Saints on Sunday — Bucs win easily.
Bucs 27 – Saints 16
Okay, the Saints’ reign of terror in the regular season; needs to end. They’re NOT the better team. Hell, they weren’t even the better team last year. But enough is enough; this silliness has to stop — the ridiculous gnawing on the fingers. The celebratory dancing in the locker room after the game — the trash-talking, the bragging about owning the Bucs over the last decade; all stops Sunday. And now that you know everything you need to know about this week’s matchup, there’s only one thing left to say.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, YOUR ASSES ARE ON THE CLOCK!
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