Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) vs. New Orleans Saints (5-7)
Sunday, December 11, 4:25 P.M. ET
Raymond James Stadium (65,618)
Network Television: FOX
Play-By-Play: Thom Brennaman Analysts: Charles Davis, Chris Spielman Sideline: Peter Schrager
Bucs Radio: US 103.5, Flagship Station (103.5 FM, 620 AM & 95.3 FM)
Play-By-Play: Gene Deckerhoff Analyst: Dave Moore Sideline: T.J. Rives
Last Game: Tampa Bay Won at San Diego, 28-21; New Orleans Lost vs. Detroit, 28-13
The Bucs have a chance this Sunday to win five straight, something they haven’t done since the Super Bowl season in 2002. To do so, they’ll need to defeat a familiar foe, the Saints, and limit an offense that’s become synonymous with prolific.
While New Orleans is coming off a lowly performance in a 28-13 loss to the Lions last week, Drew Brees and company still own the league’s No. 1 offense. Behind the arm of their future first-ballot Hall of Fame QB, who’s won his last four in Tampa Bay, the Saints are averaging 428 yards of offense, including 319 through the air.
Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith talked this week about pressuring Brees and moving him “off his spot” in the pocket. The 37-year old gunslinger has only been sacked 24 times this year, but the best way to throw off his timing is by keeping him under duress and forcing quick decisions.
The Bucs defense, meanwhile, has played at an elite level during the four-game streak. Along with holding opponents’ to an average of 204 yards passing, it’s also forced key takeaways to shift momentum or seal victories. Brees has thrown eight of his 11 INTs in losses this year, underscoring the importance of turnovers.
Given the Saints are 5-7, despite Brees’ effort at another 5,000-yard season, it’s clear the problems exist on the other side of the ball. A defense that’s surrendered at least 28 points five times this season, the Saints unit ranks 27th in the league, giving up 374 through the air. Their rush defense wouldn’t appear too bad on paper, but that’s likely because teams have been able to throw at will.
To that end, Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense should have an opportunity to build on their momentum. Tampa Bay will be without Adam Humphries (concussion) but the Saints will also be missing a key player in safety Kenny Vacarro (suspended).
The last time these two teams met at RJS: Week 14 in 2015. The Bucs were 6-6, the Saints 4-8. After winning three of four games to put itself into playoff contention, Tampa Bay came out flat and eventually lost 24-17, spiraling into a four-game losing streak to end the 2015 season. The Bucs, emphasizing the need to take each game one at a time, are out to prove their real contenders this time around, and that starts with a win this Sunday. Find out if the Pewter Reporters foresee the streak continuing.
PewterReport.com Publisher & Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
Fresh off a four-game winning streak, the 7-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are hot right now. Will that continue at Raymond James Stadium against New Orleans on Sunday as the team tries to make a playoff push against a 5-7 Saints team that has its back against the wall and can’t afford another loss? The Bucs have a chance to essentially eliminate the Saints from the playoffs with a victory on Sunday, and that’s what good teams learn to do – conquer and vanquish.
The Saints won’t be an easy out, though. Although they have lost three out of their last four games, a 25-23 home loss to Denver came on a late blocked extra point that was returned for a game-winning two-point defensive extra, and the Panthers beat New Orleans in Carolina, 23-20. Quarterback Drew Brees has had another tremendous year and is on pace to eclipse 5,000 yards once again. He has a pair of 800-yard receivers in rookie Michael Thomas, who is a bit banged up right now, and speedster Brandin Cooks. Both present different challenges for the Bucs secondary, which can’t overlook slot receiver Willie Snead or tight end Coby Fleener. Running back Mark Ingram is also a bit dinged up, but is having a fine season with a 5.3-yard rushing average.
Defensively, the Saints defense remains one of the worst in the league, but defensive end Cameron Jordan is playing well and has five sacks, as is first-round pick defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who has three sacks after missing the first half of the season with a broken leg. New Orleans has had a hard time generating quarterback pressure (24 sacks) and picking off passes (seven INTs). As long as the Bucs offensive line, which will be without right tackle Demar Dotson (concussion), continues to protect Jameis Winston, the Bucs should have their way through the air. Look for Dirk Koetter to stick with the hot hand at running back, and that could mean Jacquizz Rodgers getting more touches than Doug Martin.
Brees and the Saints have played well in Tampa Bay, winning five straight at Raymond James Stadium, so expect a close game with a score in the 20s. But the Bucs have momentum right now and are playing with a purpose after working their way back into a tie for first place in the NFC South with Atlanta. If kicker Roberto Aguayo is accurate on Sunday, the Bucs will edge the Saints for their fifth straight win.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Bucs win 27-20
Reynolds’ Pick To Click: QB Jameis Winston
PewterReport.com Editor and Chief & Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
I am not going to lie. This game scares me. Maybe it is my nearly 40-year history of watching this team. Maybe it is just flashbacks to last season when the Bucs were 6-6 and lost their next four games. Maybe it is just that ancient quarterback the Saints have, that just keeps doing things like complete 70 percent of his passes and throws for 5,000 yards nearly every season. Whatever it is, I won’t feel good until about three hours after the game when I am driving home from Ray Jay and knowing the Bucs are on a five-game roll.
The Bucs should be able to move the ball against a not-so-great Saints defense and that’s a good thing, as I expect the Saints offense to get back on track after a 13-point effort last week against the Lions. As Mike Smith said on Thursday, the key will be playing good red zone defense and getting a turnover and limiting the Saints to field goal attempts.
New Orleans is desperate as they know one more loss essentially knocks them completely out of the playoff picture. At the same time the Bucs are riding a wave of momentum and also understand the magnitude of the situation they are in. There will be some bumps, and the things the Bucs will have to overcome in this game, but with No. 3 at quarterback, who is willing to bet against him? I’m not. Look for an early Saints score or two, then the Bucs get things rolling and keep it close until the fourth quarter where once again they find a way to manufacture a win.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 31-27
Cook’s Pick To Click: RB Doug Martin
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Eric Horchy
Yes, the Bucs are hot and the Saints are not. But until Drew Brees ceases to quarterback New Orleans, the team will continue to be a major threat to Tampa Bay.
When the Bucs picked up a Week 2 win over the Saints in New Orleans last year, it ended a miserable seven-game, head-to-head losing streak. On Sunday, Tampa Bay is trying to keep another string of losses from gaining momentum since the Bucs followed up that road win with a home loss Week 14.
Tampa Bay is riding the momentum of a four-game winning streak and the Bucs need to take at least one of two during the next three weeks against New Orleans if they plan to ride that wave into the postseason. Accomplishing that will require corralling the Saints’ second-best scoring offense (28.9 points per game) the way they handled the San Diego Chargers’ third-ranked attack (27.8).
While Brees has been sacked at least once every game this year, the total is only 19 and that’s seventh lowest in the NFL. The Saints are banged up along their offensive line, though, and that can only work in Tampa Bay’s favor. Exactly how rough the situation is won’t be known until game day, but three of five starting linemen and one primary backup landed on this week’s injury report. Tampa Bay’s pass rush has been one of the most improved units on the team and replicating something close to the six-sack performance two weeks ago against Seattle’s Russell Wilson will go a long way to keeping Brees from lighting up the Raymond James Stadium scoreboard.
Considering that’s pretty much every team’s plan heading into a Sunday against New Orleans and the Saints are still putting up normal Saints numbers shows how difficult it is to knock Brees off his game. The Bucs will have success getting to the future Hall of Famer, whether it’s taking him down or flushing him out of the pocket, and that will provide the opening Tampa Bay needs to outscore the Saints.
As for Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense, scoring opportunities will be plentiful. Making sure Tampa Bay celebrates win number five in a row instead of wondering what went wrong may depend on the maximization of scoring opportunities.
Tampa Bay’s scored touchdowns on just 33.3 percent of its red zone opportunities the past three games and its season-long percentage is down to 53.5. Despite holding only one opponent to under 20 points this season (16 against the New York Jets in a Week 2 loss) the Saints are surprisingly stingy with their backs against the wall. New Orleans surrenders touchdowns on 51.2 percent of opponents’ trips into the red zone, which is seventh-best in the NFL.
Horchy’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 30-23
Horchy’s Pick To Click: DT Gerald McCoy
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Zach Shapiro
Last year’s deflating loss at home to the Saints gives this game an eerie feeling, but I believe the Bucs are for real this time.
Jameis Winston has played some of his best football the past four weeks, while the defense, holding teams to just over 200 yards passing since TNF, has resembled the Bucs of old. In each of the past four games, the defense has either turned a close game with a clutch interception or iced a momentous victory or both. It’s been refreshing to watch.
While Brees is better than the last four QBs Tampa Bay has faced – and a known Buc killer – I think the unit has come around in Mike Smith’s scheme and will be able to bring front-four pressure and move him off his spot. Key to that is Noah Spence, Robert Ayers and Will Gholston off the edge, as they’ll look to capitalize on Gerald McCoy collapsing the middle of the pocket. In the backend, until Vernon Hargreaves’ and Brent Grimes’ magic run out, I’m not betting against the duo.
Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander will have their work cut out, especially with Mark Ingram and Brees’ knack for checking it down or throwing swing passes. But David, who’s forced three takeaways in consecutive weeks, is making plays while Alexander is still a force against the run and short-passing game.
I predict the Bucs’ defense will force two critical takeaways Sunday to aid an impressive offensive performance from Winston and company against the NFL’s 27th ranked defense.
Shapiro’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 31-24
Shapiro’s Pick To Click: DE Robert Ayers
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
Just for the record, out of blind faith and unmitigated loyalty, I always pick the Bucs, even when common sense suggest otherwise. Score doesn’t matter, just win baby, just win! lol.
Everybody and their uncle is picking the Bucs to win. Good omen or bad, you decide.
If you’re interested and want to see who’s on the bus and who’s not, every Saturday before game day I hit this link. Saves going from site to site to see who your favorite pundits are picking.
That’s a great page!! Did you notice the majority of writer’s who picked the Aint’s are in the bottom half of the yearly pick percentage?
If a game like this worries me, I hope that it worries Koetter also. Drew Brees has been a pain for us to contain.
Like Mac I always select the BUCS to win. I did not want to pick the BUCS over Chiefs or the Seahawks. But I did, mainly just not to jinx them.
To me this an easy game plan. Run run run. Brees can’t beat you if he can’t get on the field. Of course every body knows this. So what should be an easy game plan turns out to be not so easy.
If ever there was a case to play BUC ball, this is it. Brees is going to score, just a fact. But if we can maybe slow him down a bit there will be an opportunity to win.
I think today Hargraves gets his first pick.
Doug and Quizz combine for 150 yards.
LVD gets another splash play.
Looking for GMC to crush the pocket and our DE’s getting 4 sacks.
Of course these things might not happen. then it’s gutsy football BUC style.
BUCS WIN 28-24
I always hate playing Brees. Ever since he arrived in New Orleans, he’s just had our number. I have confidence in our boys though. They are playing with great confidence and belief in each other. With Conte out again, we need another solid game out of Tandy. I think our run game finally shows back up this game and keeps the ball away from Brees. Jameis and Mike reconnect in a big way to shred the Saints.
Brees has beaten the Bucs so often because the Bucs have been bad.
Now the Bucs aren’t bad. Different result.
by the way, I used to love to play the Packers back in the old NFC Central when Brett Favre was winning lots of games and awards. When he beat us like a drum, it was because we just weren’t that good … but after Tony Dungy made us a winner again, then we were also competitive with Favre. Just absolutely loved the twice-a-season Favre vs. Sapp competition.
In the same way, can’t wait to face the Boys next weekend … nobody expects us to win that game .. so we should go out and win it!
I loved the old NFC Central too. I wish we still had those rivalries. Yeah Bucs had some bad teams, but Brees was elite. He’s still elite this year. He can easily go for 300+ 3 tD’s on us tomorrow. We’re on a good path toward being competitive. Winning games like this will be just another step on that path. I’m excited for it.
I predict we win too, but I believe it will be because of our defense and our run game; therefore it should be a low scoring game. Go Bucs! Oh by the way PR, it would be our 8th win as we are 7-5, not 6-5.
Have to pick the Bucs, and keep doing so until they give us a good reason to stop.
I don’t think this will be a high scoring game, our D will keep it down to low 20s or teens … Bucs 31-Saints 20
I am a bellwether for making bad picks. So in the spirit of being a Bucs fan from the Team’s inception and wanting them to succeed, I am hoping my bad pick trend will continue when I say that the bucs will lose. Saint’s offense will prove too much for Bucs, and they will be over confident because the drum beat has moved away from the weekly fan bashing of the Defense. Defense will fight hard, but its weaknesses will be exposed. Our offense will fight gallantly but Martin will be stymied and Winston will have a rare off game.
I hope you are wrong, but this scenario clearly could happen
Please don’t throw me into the briar patch.
I’ll make my picks for the rest of the season now. We win this week, lose to the cowgirls, lose to the saints in NO and beat the Panthers. We narrowly miss the playoffs but make GREAT progress. We are one more draft away from being a playoff team. Go Bucs.
31-10 Bucs. The Saints are not a good team and the Bucs have the look of an emerging dynasty. For the past 4 games, the defense has played at a level that can take a team to a Super Bowl. On offense, is there any doubt in Jameis’s ability to handle the pressure of a road playoff game? I know the Bucs did not start the season off well, but all of the experts say that the season doesn’t really begin until Thanksgiving. I would argue that the Bucs have been the most complete team for the past 4 weeks. I believe they are going to prove it next week and beat the Cowboys.
The Saints are a VERY dangerous team. You are never not a good team when you have a future HOF QB. This is the kind of thing I am worried about, us doing what we did after the first game of the year, getting too high on a team that is good but may not be playoff ready yet. I hope you are correct, but think you may be overestimating us and underestimating the Saints.
Sorry, the Saints aren’t the Chiefs or the Pats or the Raiders or the Hawks. They score a lot of points, but they also give up a lot of points (2nd highest PA in the league), and they don’t have a win this season over a quality opponent (i.e., any opponent with a .500 record or better to date).
They’re not nothing, they can certainly beat the Bucs if we don’t show up. But don’t make them out to be great – they’re not.
Our Bucs simply need to keep on doing what we’ve been doing the last month, and we’ll get a win. The Bucs are better than the Saints.
I know I can’t predict the score or the nuances of this game but one thing is for certain… Brent Grimes will get beat again for a long TD. And other than that he will play great
Brees loves the long ball, they’re a big play offense … no backfield can blank Brees if he gets time to throw on multiple long throws. The best way to beat Brees is to keep the pressure on him from the line and with a reasonable amount of blitzing. Even then he’ll still make at least a couple or three long bomb throws that make it to the end zone. Doesn’t matter who is in the backfield.
Just realized I used double negative in last post. Too much alcohol.
I “predict” I’ll be there for what might be the biggest home game since the 49er playoff game in the 2002 Super Bowl season. It’s going to be a blast and wild guesses as to the final score are as relevant to the outcome as is the choice of which jersey to wear to the game.
But hell, if you believe these wild guesses are relevant? Be right MFers, be RIGHT!
And if you’re going tomorrow, lets make some NOISE!
Good point Garv, and for those of us cheering from afar, PLEASE make RJS loud! When I could hear how loud it was vs. SEA on my tv, I was so happy. I always turn it up just a little louder when we get into the red zone and then of course in to the end zone so that I can hear that cannon fire. Like the guy “Alex” in the old Bud Light commercial says, “I want to fire the cannons!”. Brees will inflict some damage, but I like our field general in this one and #jaboowins.
All the predictions above have us winning and putting up 30? I hope we win, but we haven’t put up 30 in long time. Hoping d holds Saints to around 20 and we win like 23-20 or something like that. We should win if we play like we have but thins game worries me some. Saints aren’t as scary out of their Dome though.
I hope we go into Dallas and shock the world. Tired of the media and hearing about how awesome Dallas is. Last two weeks they barely squeaked out wins. Bucs can beat them.
I lost my voice against Seahawks and I plan to lose it today as well!!!!
Lets rock that frigging place again!!!!
Here is my version of fantasy football:
I would like to see Evans get 2 touchdowns,Brate, Shephard and Martin, 1 each. I would love to see that rookie get his first pick off Brees. (You know, the guy someone wants to nickname “the Joker”.)
Go Buucssss!!!!!!! Go Fans!!! 12th Man and couch potatoes too!
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