The 6-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a chance to get over .500 with a win over 4-8 New Orleans Saints on Sunday. What are the six things PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s upcoming game? Find out right here in SR’s Pick 6.
Who: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints
Where: Raymond James Stadium at Tampa, Fla.
When: 1:00 p.m. ET – FOX
Last meeting: 26-19 win at New Orleans in 2015
Series notes: Saints have a 29-17 advantage over Bucs all-time
1. TAKE RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM BACK FROM BREES
No matter what the Buccaneers have done to Saints quarterback Drew Brees over the past six years he has usually managed to find a way to win in Tampa Bay. No quarterback has had a better winning mark at Raymond James Stadium than Brees, who has been better against the Bucs on the road since 2009 (5-1) than he has at home (4-3) during that span. No matter what Tampa Bay has done, whether it’s held to him 186 yards (in 2009) or picked him off more times than he’s thrown for touchdowns (from 2011-13), it always hasn’t been enough.
Brees has often struggled on the road in outdoor stadiums, but that hasn’t been the case in Tampa Bay. Since 2009, Brees has completed 146-of-227 passes (64.3 percent) for 1,812 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions at Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs have to continue to intercept him and sack him on defense and be in a shootout mentality on offense. With Tampa Bay’s defense playing even better right now than it did in a 26-19 win at New Orleans in Week 2, Lovie Smith’s crew should be up for the challenge, especially with linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy shaking off injuries to play on Sunday.
Bucs are NFL’s most penalized team – Photo by: Getty Images
2. MAKE IT A SLUGFEST, NOT A FLAGFEST
The first rule of football is to not beat yourself. Teams can do that two ways – with turnovers and penalties. The Bucs have done a decent job of protecting the football this season with a rookie quarterback and have a plus-1 turnover margin with 21 takeaways and 20 giveaways. The Saints have a similar number with a minus-2 turnover margin. They have 19 giveaways and 17 takeaways in 2015. The winner in the battle of the turnovers should win this game. That was the case in Week 2 when the Bucs won the turnover battle with a 3-2 margin.
Penalties are a similar story. The Bucs are the most undisciplined team in the NFL with a league-high 117 penalties for 947 yards, while the Saints have the third-most infractions with 103 for 904 yards. Saints cornerback Brandon Browner has committed a league-high 21 penalties this season two declined. Ten of which have been defensive holding penalties. That’s eight more than the closest NFL player. Tampa Bay right tackle Gosder Cherilus has been flagged 12 times, which is the third-most this season, with two declined. The team that plays the most disciplined game of football and does a better job of protecting the ball on Sunday will likely win.
3. BE ULTRA-AGGRESSIVE ON OFFENSE
This should not be a “Buc Ball” kind of game and Smith and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter should get any notion of a low-scoring, keep-it-close and win-it-in-the-fourth quarter mindset out of their heads. The Saints have the worst defense in the NFL, allowing an average of 425.2 yards and 31.7 points per game. New Orleans has already fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The Saints allow 137.8 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 32nd, and surrenders 287.3 yards per game through the air, which ranks 31st. New Orleans has only six interceptions on the season.
Koetter needs to go full throttle with running back Doug Martin in the running game to pound the Saints into submission, and then have Jameis Winston use play-action to throw bombs downfield to receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, tight ends Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Cameron Brate, and running back Charles Sims on wheel routes and screens. Tampa Bay’s improving defense should be able to keep New Orleans’ offense in check, but no lead is safe with the ultra-competitive Brees under center. The Bucs need to go for the throat as they did in Philadelphia and plan on scoring 30-plus points against the Saints. With the playoffs on the line against a wounded division rival, this is not the game for Smith to order conservative play-calling.
Sterling Moore had two pass breakups on Sunday – Photo: Cliff Welch/PR
4. MOORE STELLAR PLAY
Bucs cornerback Sterling Moore has become a big-time playmaker for the defense since midseason, and has routinely drawn the coverage responsibilities for the opponents’ top receiver. Moore has personally taken on the likes of Dallas’ Dez Bryant, New York’s Odell Beckham, Jr., and most recently, Atlanta’s Julio Jones, who was held to 93 yards and no touchdowns on eight catches despite being targeted 17 times by Matt Ryan. Moore had a critical pass breakup in the end zone against Jones in last week’s 23-19 win.
Moore will have to continue his stellar play this week against New Orleans where he will likely draw the assignment of covering Brandin Cooks, a first-round pick in 2014 that has developed into Brees’ favorite target. Cooks, who has breakaway speed, has caught 61 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns. He has been in the concussion protocol all week, but says he wasn’t concussed last week against Carolina and is expected to play against Tampa Bay. Moore will have his hands full covering this talented young receiver one-on-one in man coverage and also in zone. He needs to rise to the occasion.
5. MAKE STOUT SECONDARY PLAY A PRIORITY
Not only does Moore have to play a great game against the Saints, Tampa Bay’s entire secondary needs to step up against a myriad of targets and continue to play good red zone defense. Without leading rusher Mark Ingram, who was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury this week, New Orleans will run the ball just enough with C.J. Spiller and Tim Hightower to keep Tampa Bay’s defense honest, but will need Brees to sling the ball around to have the best chance of winning. Trying to beat the Bucs on the ground against a defense that is ranked seventh in run defense, allowing an average of 94.7 yards per game, is futile.
The problem for the Bucs secondary is that there are more weapons at Brees’ disposal than just Cooks. Willie Snead, who caught a touchdown pass against Tampa Bay in Week 2, has 45 catches for 676 yards and three scores. Tight end Benjamin Watson has 54 catches for 642 yards and four TDs this year. The Bucs can’t sleep on veteran Marques Colston, who is still dangerous in the twilight of his career and has caught 37 passes for 445 yards and a touchdown. Spiller, who has 29 receptions for 216 yards and two TDs, must be accounted for as a receiver out of the backfield. Brandon Coleman is a big target at 6-foot-6, 225 pounds and can create match-up problems in the red zone. Tampa Bay’s safeties Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald each have an interception against Brees in their careers, and will need to play well. The same is true for the Bucs linebackers in coverage and fellow cornerbacks Jude Adjei-Barimah and Alterraun Verner.
Bucs LB Lavonte David – Buccaneers.com
6. REWARD BUC NATION’S LOYALTY
Although it wasn’t a sell out, last week’s paid attendance for the Bucs vs. Falcons game at Raymond James Stadium was 58,221, which was more robust than it has been in quite some time in Tampa Bay. Of course Ray-Jay was at near capacity for games against Dallas and New York when enemy fans made up nearly half of those in attendance. That wasn’t the case last week as tens of thousands more Bucs fans paid to see this intriguing Tampa Bay beat Atlanta to get back to .500 with a 6-6 record. When the game was on the line, the Bucs fans were in full throat and helped will the team to victory in the fourth quarter.
After going winless at home last year and starting off the season with home losses against Tennessee and Carolina, the Bucs have won three out of their last four games at Ray-Jay, beating Jacksonville, Dallas and Atlanta, while losing to New York. After his game-clinching interception against Atlanta last week, David rushed down to celebrate with the fans to thank them for their support. With a win on Sunday against New Orleans, Tampa Bay will have posted four home wins this year with a chance for a fifth after Christmas against Chicago in Week 16. Tampa Bay is expecting a near sell-out on Sunday, and the Bucs need to reward their fans’ loyalty and passion with an inspired win to get to 7-6 on the season.
SR’s Prediction: Buccaneers 31, Saints 20
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bucs over Saints by 4. I only say 4 because most teams play conservative Defense in the last part of the 4th quarter. Go bucs!
Have to go for the jugular in this one. We are in a rare opportunity in this game with Minnesota losing again as well. We are going to have to score at least 28 in this game to win. We’ve been pretty fotunate against Brees , but he ALWAYS has the ball on the final drive of the game, which drives me crazy. Let’s make sure it doesn’t get to that.
Scott I agree with your score prediction, but not how to get there. Yes, NO will want to play shoot out. We must not get sucked into that. By using our running game and play action, we can both rest our defense (so we can harass their QB and stop their runs) and limit their touches drastically. Running the ball makes them load the box to stop it and leaves them one on one with our 6’5″ receivers. Then Winston can burn them bad for an easy WIN!
On a side note, I did see Schiano got hired by Ohio state yesterday, that means we don’t have to pay him any more right?
While all NFL coach’s contracts are guaranteed, almost all have offset language. The only exceptions are the ones that have star power and can negotiate for it. Coming in and receiving a low level contract, I doubt Schiano held out for that. Schiano is owed 3.1mil in 2016. OSU DC will not be making 3.1mil. He is likely to still get some Glazer money in 2016 – the offset of 3.1mil and his official OSU salary. The highest paid college assistant coaches (Muschamp just went to South Carolina as HC) are:
1. Will Muschamp Auburn defensive coordinator $1.6 million
2. Kirby Smart Alabama defensive coordinator $1.5 million
3. John Chavis Texas A&M defensive coordinator $1.5 million
4. Cam Cameron LSU offensive coordinator $1.5 million
Notice they’re all SEC coaches too!
Not necessarily cgmaster. Depends on how his contract is written.
I see the Saints stacking 8 in the box and making Winston beat them with his arm which he is capable of doing.
Even though Ryan isn’t there I expect them to run plenty of blitz packages and various DL stunts especially if they watch the Colts tape.
Has anybody else noticed that our defense drastically improved around the week 8 or 9 mark. That happened last season as well. Hopefully this is just a coincidence, and not a sign of a trend. We need our defense to be humming week 1 next year to be real contenders.
It all changed when the Bucs changed cornerbacks.
If I remember the first matchup correctly the way we won was to line up two TEs for blocking. The way our OLine has improved I’m hoping that’s no longer necessary. Also, Brees was hurt that game, it was apparent with the ducks he was throwing. I’m hoping we can just pile points on in this game cause I don’t think we’re going to see the same Brees as Wk 2.
Brees was hurt in that game because Jacques Smith hurt him. Lining up 2 TE’s in the formation isn’t the worst situation since all of ours can catch, even Stocker.
I’d be happy if the Brees who played last year at RJ showed up since he threw 3 INT’s in that contest which Lovie had the team tank on.
I don’t know if it’s true that jacquies hurt him but I wouldn’t be surprised for how that game went. They never said anything formally but we beat him up and forced some mistakes. But Jacquies is out. I like Gholston when I see the highlights anyhow; maybe he can make some splash plates.
Here’s what I know about Drew Brees and his whining HC Sean Poutin. It’s never over until it’s over and they are easily frustrated when things go bad. Do not put the ball in Brees’ hands with any time left. I agree with Scott. Control the ball and score. Make them earn everything themselves. Hit their defense early and let the self-doubt kill any thoughts of victory. Bucs would have won on the scoreboard the final game last season if not for the Lose for Winston game plan. I know when I left the stadium after clinching the first pick, it felt like a victory. Who Dat?……..our franchise QB.
Lovie and his defense suck. Enough said.
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