Josh Freeman needs a complete game on Sunday.
You know the drill.
Looking at the standings, this Saints team is a lot better than its 1-4 record indicates. That being said, if the Saints came here 4-1, one might wonder why they even needed a head coach like Sean Payton. Fact is, they miss him, don't they?
So let's get right to it and see how this Sunday stacks up for our guys when they put on the old wonderful orange and white.
Quarterback: Drew Brees vs Josh Freeman.
A mismatch if there ever was one. Brees is a future Hall of Famer, Freeman would have to get a lot better to even sniff the Ring of Honor. Brees is simply elite. He's in the Brady (Tom), Manning (Peyton and Eli) and Rodgers (Aaron) category.
Brees' accuracy is way down this season and hopefully that trend will continue on Sunday. If he starts getting back to the 70 percent range, everyone's in trouble.
The Bucs will need a complete game out of Freeman, one half won't cut it against this team.
Big Advantage: Saints.
Can the Bucs hold Brees under 325 yards passing?
Running backs: Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram vs. Doug Martin, LeGarrette Blount.
That's a mismatch on paper, but the one problem for the Saints this year is that they haven't been able to run the football. Not that the Bucs have become a juggernaut, but against the Chiefs, perhaps the Bucs found out that a good passing game will open up the running game.
Advantage: Push because the Saints haven't had that big rushing game.
Wide receivers: Marques Colston, Devery Henderson vs. Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams.
Gotta love what V-Jax and Williams did last week, they will draw more attention Sunday; that is for certain.
Advantage: Bucs, slight advantage.
Tight ends: Jimmy Graham vs. Dallas Clark.
With defenses perhaps shifting their attention to V-Jax and Williams, maybe this is the game when Mike Sullivan finally uses Dallas Clark. Jimmy Graham has been bothered by an ankle injury and certainly won't be at full speed, he's a game-time decision, but you can bet he'll play Sunday. How effective he can be is another story.
Big Advantage: Saints.
Offensive line: Jerman Bushrod (LT), Ben Grubbs (LG), Brian de la Puente (C), Jahri Evans (RG), Zach Strief (RT) vs. Donald Penn (LT), Carl Nicks (LG), Jeremy Zuttah (C), Jamon Meredith (RG), Demar Dotson (RT).
Can the Bucs run the football against the Saints?
Hopefully Carl Nicks can give some good insight into his old team. Left side of Bucs is stronger, right side of Saints is better.
Defensive line: Cam Jordan (LDE), Bradrick Bunkly (DT), Sedrick Ellis (DT), Will Smith (RDE) vs Michael Bennett (LDE), Gerald McCoy (DT), Roy Miller (DT), Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.
New Orleans has good linemen but they haven't played well as a unit, probably better overall talent BUT, the Bucs D-line has played quite well.
Advantage: Buccaneers, slight advantage.
Linebackers: Scott Shanie, Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne vs. Lavonte David, Maston Foster, Quincy Black.
Everyone wanted the Bucs to go after Lofton and Hawthorne, at least there was enough clamoring in the offseason and those names kept coming up. Turns out the Bucs didn't need them. The Buccaneer linebackers are playing extraordinary football, especially David and Foster and Black is raising the level of his game as well.
Secondary: Jahri Greer (LCB), Patrick Robinson (RCB), Roman Harper (SS), Malcolm Jenkins (FS) vs. E.J. Biggers I(LCB), Eric Wright (RCB), Mark Barron (SS), Ronde Barber (FS).
Will Mike Williams and V-Jax have a big day?
Huge game for E.J. Biggers. You know the Saints are going to try and pick on him. He played well against the Chiefs, but once again, that was Brady Quinn at quarterback, not Drew Brees. If the Bucs secondary makes any mistakes, Brees will make them pay.
Garrett Hartley (K), Tom Morstead (P) vs. Connor Barth (K), Michael Koenin (P).
Bucs have the advantage with Barth and maybe Koenin as long as he doesn't try to throw the football.
Darren Sproles (KR, PR) vs. Roscoe Parrish (PR), Arrelious Benn (KR)?
Saints have a slight advantage with Sproles.
That should do it for this week. This one will be tough if the Buccaneers cannot run the football. Freeman needs to be sharp because Brees will be. Freeman needs a complete game and the Bucs need to get some pressure on Brees and at least make him throw the ball before he really wants to.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27, New Orleans 24.