The New Orleans Saints, fresh off of their 17-14 win over division rival Atlanta on Monday night will take on the 9-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are coming off of a nice 38-15 victory over the Seattle Seahawks this past Sunday.
The Saints need a win (along with an Atlanta loss) to win the NFC South and earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs while the Bucs need a win and some help to earn a wild card berth and make the playoffs.
Motivation will be a key factor for both teams in this game and that motivation is continue their seasons. Granted, the Saints are going on to the playoffs already, but if they could somehow win the NFC South it would mean a lot to their chances of getting back to and winning the Super Bowl.
This is the second meeting between these two teams. The first meeting came in Week 6 when the Saints beat the Bucs, 31-6. Will we see a similar game this week or will the Bucs surprise the Saints?
Let’s find out in this extended preview of the Saints versus the Buccaneers at the Super Dome in New Orleans.
When the Saints Have the Ball
The Saints have always had a lot of success passing the ball and with playoff positioning looming for this game, you can bet that they are going to try to pass their way to a victory.
The Saints will want to jump out to a big lead and keep Tampa from making this a close contest. Remember that the Bucs are still in playoff contention and win plus some help can get them into the playoffs.
In the passing game, the Saints are averaging 282 yards per game which makes them one of the top passing teams in the NFL. The Bucs are allowing teams to gain 201 yards per game through the air so something may end up having to give in this game.
When these two teams first met, the Saints were able to put up 263 yards against the Bucs in their first meeting but things have improved with Tampa Bay’s pass defense so the Saints might now be able to do as well in this game.
Getting pressure on Brees has worked for some teams this season and if the Bucs can get some pressure on him (the come into this game with 23 sacks) then they will shake up their offense and keep them from having success passing the ball.
The Saints have allowed Brees to be sacked a total of 30 times so his protection has been okay. Earlier in the season, when under pressure, Brees has made some mistakes so the Bucs will want to get a lot of pressure on him.
The Saints have several threats in the running game now that running backs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush are back and they can run the ball effectively (and much better than they could earlier in the season).
Through 15 games this season, the Saints are averaging 94 yards per game on the ground while the Bucs defense is allowing 133 yards per game. If the Saints can manage to get their ground going and control the ball and the clock then they have an even better chance of winning this game.
So look for the Saints to try to mix things up a little bit using both their running game and passing game.
The passing game has taken a little bit of a hit as Courtney Roby will be out for the remainder of the season and the playoffs while wide receiver Marques Colston had his knee scoped recently and is questionable for the game on Sunday.
Not having these guys available may set the Saints passing offense back a little bit but they still have some good weapons to throw the ball to and should be able to compensate for the loss.
When the Buccaneers Have the Ball
Things have really changed in Tampa since last season. They are playing a lot better on offense and have seemingly found their quarterback in Josh Freeman. While he may not be one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, he’s been effective and has been a big part of why the Bucs have done so well this season.
Through 15 games, Tampa Bay’s passing offense is averaging 208 yards through the air while the Saints defense is allowing teams to gain 191 yards through the air. The Bucs offense has allowed Freeman to be sacked 27 times while the Saints have sacked opposing quarterbacks 30 times.
The Saints have managed to get some good pass pressure in several games this season and if they can get some against Freeman they have an excellent chance to win.
The Bucs rushing attack is led by rookie running back LeGarrette Blount who almost has 1,000 yards on the season. Overall, the Bucs rushing attack is averaging 127 yards per game.
The Saints defense is allowing teams to gain 114 yards per game so the Bucs may find some success running the ball, but if they get behind the Saints they will have to abandon the run and take their show to the air. If they have to do that they will struggle to win this game.
It’s important that the Saints get a lead to start so that they can sit back and basically go on cruise control with their rushing game and go on to win. The Saints may find that the Bucs aren’t going to lie down, however, as Tampa Bay needs a win and some help to get into the playoffs so you can expect that they will be playing as hard as they can in order to win the game.
So can the Saints get out to a big lead and beat the Bucs? If New Orleans can jump out to a lead right away using their passing game then they can allow their defense pin its ears back and rush Freeman often. If they can get to Freeman and cause him problems then they will have a great chance of winning this game.
Running the football would be a good idea if the Saints get the lead that way they don’t give the Bucs offense opportunities to score. Thomas and Bush, along with rookie running back Chris Ivory are a very effective running the ball when featured and hopefully they can get something going against the Bucs in this game.
As long as the Saints don’t get lazy (because they have already secured a playoff spot) they should be able to win this game and have some momentum going into the NFL’s postseason.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers know that winning is part of the formula to get them into the playoffs so you can bet that they will be trying their hardest to win this game and get into the postseason.
The Saints do have some incentive to win this game because if the Falcons lose, they could win their division and earn a first-round bye plus home-field advantage in the playoffs so look for them to play hard and do everything that they can to win this game.
New Orleans 27, Tampa Bay 23