TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (0-0) VS. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (0-0)
WHEN: SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 1:00 P.M. ET
WHERE: MERCEDES-BENZ SUPERDOME (73,000)
NETWORK TELEVISION: FOX
PLAY-BY-PLAY: CHRIS MYERS ANALYST: DARYL JOHNSTON SIDELINE: LAURA OKMIN BUCS RADIO: 98ROCK, FLAGSHIP STATION (WXTB-97.9 FM)
PLAY-BY-PLAY: GENE DECKERHOFF ANALYST: DAVE MOORE SIDELINE: T.J. RIVES

The PewterReport.com staff offers up our staff predictions weekly and welcome you to add your own. See who we think wins, how and why and what player for the Bucs will have an exceptional game.

PewterReport.com Publisher & Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds

In my SR’s Fab 5 column I did a game-by-game prediction for the 2018 Bucs season to illustrate how I came up with my 8-8 forecast for Tampa Bay this year. Despite being 10-point underdogs, I picked the Bucs to upset the Saints in New Orleans o Sunday. There are actually quite a few Week 1 upsets that happen because not much is really known about NFL teams until they play a game or two and then the truth is usually revealed. Remember when the Bucs rolled into Atlanta and upset the Falcons in Dirk Koetter’s first game as head coach in 2016? My gut was telling me that the Bucs would get a surprise win over the Saints, who might be a little overconfident coming off a season in which they won the NFC South and the fact that their season opener is at home.

Then I learned about cornerback Brent Grimes’ groin injury Friday afternoon and by “gut feeling” almost turned into an upset stomach. Am I still going to pick the Bucs without Grimes – going up against the likes of New Orleans legend and future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees? (Gulp.) Yes, and I don’t know why.

Maybe it’s because I think it’s going to be a high-scoring game and I like the fact that the Bucs averaged about 28 points per game in the first three preseason games. Maybe it’s because I suspect the Bucs will go with a lot of two tight end sets to help protect Ryan Fitzpatrick from Saints blitzes and that Tampa Bay will counter with a healthy dose of Peyton Barber rushing the ball out of that two tight end set. Maybe it’s because I think Chris Godwin is going to go off again and have a 100-yard day to start the 2018 campaign.

Maybe it’s because I believe safeties Chris Conte and Justin Evans will help rookie cornerbacks Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart over the top and linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander will help them underneath. Maybe it’s because Alexander will blitz the A gap a lot along with interior rushes from Gerald McCoy and Jason Pierre-Paul that will bring pressure right in Brees’ face.

Or maybe I’m just dumb. We’ll find out Sunday at 4:00 p.m. ET.

Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Bucs 27, Saints 24
Reynolds’ Pick-To-Click: RB Peyton Barber

PewterReport.com Editor & Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
Oh boy. When the schedule came out just before the NFL Draft in April I said this is a definite loss. Then Jameis Winston was suspended and I knew for a fact this was a definite loss.

But then camp started, and the grizzly, long-bearded 25-year NFL veteran(okay, only 13-year vet) Ryan Fitzpatrick looked like a different player than we witnessed last season. Cool, calm and seemingly unfazed by much, FitzMagic had a heck of a training camp. From Day 1 of camp until his last pass in Week 3 of the preseason. All of a sudden I started to believe the Bucs could go into New Orleans and steal a divisional game from the Saints. Pretty much all preseason, I was convinced they had a pretty good shot. A revamped defense, tons of weapons offensively and finally a kicker, I talked myself into the Bucs starting 1-0.

Then my senses came back to me. The stuff someone obviously slipped in my caffeine- free Diet Sam’s Choice Mountain Lightning soda eventually wore off, and I am back to believing this is a loss. Now, can the Buc win? Sure. But they will need to play mistake-free football, something this team rarely does. Will this game be different? Hopefully, but they will need to earn my trust first.

I think the game is fairly close, and the Bucs should be able to hang with the Saints early on, maybe even into the fourth quarter, but the Bucs always seem to have a meltdown at some point when on the road against the Saints. New Orleans is the most experienced team, and as much as I hate to say it, better coached at this point.

Cook’s Score Prediction: Saints 28, Bucs 20
Cook’sPick-To-Click: TE O.J. Howard

PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Reporter Trevor Sikkema
I don’t know about you, but I’m so ready for real football to begin. All offseason we’ve talked about the additions, the moves, the decisions and now it’s time to see what they’re really about.

This team’s first test is tough — it would have been even with Winston. Anytime you have to go on the road and play in New Orleans, not to mention it being your first game of the season, you’re in for a tall task. The Bucs will need quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to play well, and by well I don’t even mean throw for 300 yards. Fitzpatrick just needs to play mistake-free football, and do enough to complement Peyton Barber and the Bucs running game. They’ll need to score more than 20 points, but that should happen naturally with all their offensive weapon if they limit the turnovers.

Where I think the game will really be won or lost for the Buccaneers will be on the defensive side. The Bucs have to get turnovers, which is tough on a guy like Drew Brees. It’s going to take an extra interception or an extra forced fumble for the Bucs to overcome a tough road opponent. The secondary is going to have to really step it up if they’re down Brent Grimes. Vernon Hargreaves will have the key matchup of the day against Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas. Yes, the increased pass rush will help, but Brees gets the ball out of his hand so fast that this isn’t the right game to really judge the front four. This is the game for the secondary to win it.

Mistake free on offense and mistake forced on defense. It’s a cliche, but they have to win the turnover battle by one or two to get it done.

Ultimately, I don’t think they do.

Sikkema’s Score Prediction: Saints 34, Bucs 17
Sikkema’s Pick-To-Click: CB Vernon Hargreaves

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th 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 spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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seat26
seat26
3 years ago

Bucs win 24-21. Bucs get 4 sacks and three interceptions.

scubog
scubog
3 years ago

At least at the QB position we have youth on our side. Smart move by the Saints to acquire Teddy, who has similar traits to Drew Brees who surely has to be thinking about retiring. I just can’t stand that smug ass Sean Payton. The Saints and their pompous coach lucked out when Brees’ shoulder healed after being dumped by the Chargers. The former Aint’s, whose “Who Dat” cheer was created back in the 70’s when fans couldn’t identify each other with the paper bags over their heads, have at times been an overconfident bunch. Hopefully, that same mindset will… Read more »

GoldsonAges
GoldsonAges
3 years ago

When the fire is live you find out who your team is. Brent Grimes is out, leaving our already talent depleted secondary void of it’s best player. The secondary is the elephant in the room. Sure, the rookies might be really good one day, but in their 1st ever game against Drew Brees and that high powered offense? Probably not. Our safeties are probably the worst starting tandem in the NFL until they prove otherwise. I truly believe the defensive line will win us a couple of games, but I dont think they will against New Orleans who has the… Read more »

fredster
fredster
3 years ago

I think the Falcons O line is better than Saints and best in our division myself. I hate the Saints. Probably as much as I hate the Panthers and that’s saying a lot. Cam is a cry baby douche bag. Sean Peyton is a smug prick for sure. Saints always been a dirty team too. Bucs can win this game, but they will have to play mistake free ball. Who are the 2018 Bucs? We are about to find out. I’m picking Bucs to win of course until they prove they can’t. Don’t know why but I think may be… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
3 years ago

Trevor is closest to being right, I think. There is no way any NFL team takes their home opener, let alone a division game, lightly … not to mention being on a mission to avenge their end of season loss to the Bucs. To think otherwise is just homerism. As for thoss who claim to hate Coach Payton thanks for preserving the mentality of a typical middle school student here at PR. In case someone didn’t explain this to you as you reached biological adulthood, pro football is a game and a business, not existential warfare. There are no enemies,… Read more »

scubog
scubog
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 years ago

I suspect you and are are about the same age and am curious why you think a dislike for someone is “juvenile”; yet you seem to dislike Jameis, Jason Licht and probably most people who lean toward disagreeing with your opinions, name-calling and negativity. Tell the truth Naples (fan but not a homer), you’re really BF47 who retired and moved to Naples from Tennessee.

Dman
Dman
3 years ago

All about the trenches. We win those battles, we win the game.
Go Bucs!

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
Reply to  Dman
3 years ago

Agreed – our soft secondary scheme under Smitty is awful anyway so whether it’s Grimy or Davis we’re really counting on JPP and GMC.

BucWild02
BucWild02
3 years ago

Home openers, road games, divisional games, conference games, prime time games, games with playoff implications. They are all tough games. There are no cupcake opponents. This is the NFL. Imagine if the Bucs were playing the Buffalo Bills at home at 1pm or even on MNF in a home opener, this panel would have written how this is the kind of game the Bucs lose because they’re overconfident. A so called “trap” game. They would tell you how the Bucs road record is better than their home record over the last 5 years. They would tell you how Buffalo offense… Read more »

BucWild02
BucWild02
Reply to  BucWild02
3 years ago

Obviously at one point it was 48-24. Thats what Im talking about. Im just thankful the Bucs held on to win this one. Best offensive performance I have ever seen from a Buc team. The 43 yarder to ice it would have made it a record scoring perfomance.

Great game Bucs! On to week 2! Bring on the Eagles!

Buc 1976
Buc 1976
3 years ago

This is a good matchup to see what we have along both lines. If the Bucs win time of the clock and get the ball to many of our receivers JUST MAYBE.

Horse
Horse
3 years ago

I’m hoping for a win! Go Bucs!
Saints 30 Bucs 17.

nitey
nitey
3 years ago

No matter what you feel about your team, the 1st game of the year is the one to be optimistic about. Fact is, each team has made some changes, whether those changes turn out to be good or not is not going to be known until the teams actually play the real games.

So, I’m putting my optimistic hat on, Bucs pull out a win. Not sure how or by how much, but does it really make any difference? A ugly win and a good win still look the same in the Won Loss column.

Go Bucs!

Buc76
Buc76
3 years ago

Trevor you are being realistic. 38 to 13 saints. This team has done nothing to improve the wins and losses. JPP will not be enough to turn this defense around. They get carved up by Brees and the offense will not produce. You’re not going to win there with a backup quarterback.

wnb0395
wnb0395
Reply to  Buc76
3 years ago

The offense won’t huh. I love that you have done nothing but hate in the Bucs and then they produce.

jiggyjoe
jiggyjoe
3 years ago

I think that the Saints cannot stop us and we cannot stop them….
Bucs 34
Saints 30
TAKE THE 10 POINTS!

Randy H.
Randy H.
Reply to  jiggyjoe
3 years ago

I took the 9.5 and came out smiling!!!

Borkdog
Borkdog
3 years ago

Love the pick of Vea, potential game changer and big time run stuffer, and was even dreaming of a return to the Fridge days in Chicago, Vea on short and goal up the middle?!!! however, NOT available, Bad news. Love Winston’s development and maturity this preseason, and believe he is on right track, but he’s out for 3, Bad News. Then lose Grimes, don’t think will hurt long term, but short term, not enough development time yet for Davis, Stewart, Whitehead and Evans, oh yea throw in Hargraves, but he may be turning corner, but anyway, for now, Bad News.… Read more »

WiltheBrewer
WiltheBrewer
3 years ago

Barber and the running game need to eat up some clock and keep the NO offense off the field. Let’s see if the refs call the blocks- in-the-back this year against them

drdneast
drdneast
3 years ago

Good job Scott even though the win didn’t go the way you predicted.
But who would have thought Fitz would out Brees, Brees. and Cam Newton.
Still have to worry about the Mike Smith D. Better players but same look. DBs confused in coverage where WRs are runing wide open. Egads.

COBRAHD
COBRAHD
3 years ago

I LOVE WATCHING THE BUCS SHUT ALL OF YOU NAYSAYERS COMPLETELY UP!!!! WAY TO GO FITZ!!! AWESOME GAME BROTHER AND GREAT GAME SUPPORTING STAFF!! I LOVE MY BUCS!!!