Buccaneers game day is approaching, and it’s time for the PewterReport.com staff to offer up its weekly game predictions. Let us know what you think in the article comments section and add your prediction, too.
WHEN: Sunday, November 8, 2020 KICKOFF: 8:20 p.m. ET WHERE: Raymond James Stadium TV: NBC PLAY-BY-PLAY: Al Michaels ANALYSTS: CrisCollinsworth SIDELINE: Michele Tafoya RADIO: 98ROCK 97.9 FM PLAY-BY-PLAY: Gene Deckerhoff ANALYST: Dave Moore SIDLINE: T.J. Rives Spanish Radio: 96.1 FM PLAY-BY-PLAY: Carlos Bohorquez ANALYST: Martin Gramatica
Scott Reynolds: Bucs Get A Win In Prime Time (Finally)
At some point in time the Buccaneers need to rise up and win a big game in prime time. I’m not talking about squeaking by the Giants on Monday Night Football. I mean beating a team like three-time NFC South defending champion New Orleans on Sunday Night Football on NBC. After all, the NFL playoffs – and the Super Bowl – are played in prime time before a nationally televised audience. So sooner or later Tampa Bay is going to have to show up and show out in prime time if they want to get ready for a playoff push. There’s no better time than Sunday night at home against a hated divisional rival.
The team with the better pass rush wins this game. Tampa Bay is second in the league in sacks with 28 this season, but the Bucs only got to Drew Brees just once in Week 1 whereas Tom Brady was sacked three times. Left tackle Donovan Smith, who struggled mightily in New Orleans in the season opener, needs to continue his solid play to keep Tom Brady upright. Joe Haeg will fill in at left guard for Ali Marpet and that’s worth keeping an eye on as the Saints have 19 sacks this season.
Mark Cook: Succop FG Beats Saints – In South End Zone
To be the best you have to beat the best. Well for the last two seasons and the last four match-ups between the two teams, the Saints have been the best and it really hasn’t even been close. The Saints are on a four-game winning streak over Tampa Bay, with the Bucs last win in the series coming with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm back in 2018.
This is a tough match-up for the Bucs as the Saints have a physical front four. Tampa Bay’s offensive line struggled against the Saints in Week 1 allowing three sacks and a number of pressures, and also struggled against another dominant front in the Bears on Thursday night last month. The good news is the Bucs offensive line is better than the one we saw to open the season and they know exactly what they are getting with Marcus Davenport, Cam Jordan, Trey Hendrickson and David Onyemata. Things will be tougher for the group however, as the Bucs announced late Friday that guard Ali Marpet is out for Sunday’s game with a concussion.
I expect this game to be a back-and-forth affair with the obvious affecting the outcome – turnovers and penalties. The team with the least mistakes should win the game, and I believe the Bucs have the talent and want-to to send the Saints packing with a loss and an announcement to the rest of the league there is a changing of the guard in the NFC South.
The Bucs worst three performances of the season have come as a nationally broadcast team, in Week 1 against the Saints, Week 5 against the Bears and Week 8 against the Giants. Is there something to playing in the spotlight that this team isn’t ready for?
Maybe, but the bigger concern is the way Tampa Bay has struggled against the Saints in the past, as Todd Bowles has come up empty in three meetings against New Orleans as the Bucs defensive coordinator, surrendering 31 points or more in each contest. The key will be rolling up his cornerbacks and playing a more physical brand of football on the Saints’ receivers. Force Drew Brees to throw the ball down the field and eliminate separation from underneath pass-catchers, and the Bucs defense will finally be able to shut down the Saints’ death-by-a-thousand-cuts offense.
Easier said than done, however, as is continuing a streak of nearly mistake-free football games that has kept the Bucs on the winning track. The Saints are the ultimate example of a team that simply doesn’t beat themselves and plays efficient, high percentage football with an offensive scheme that is tough to prepare for. Is the Bucs defense finally ready to rise up and stop Sean Payton’s offensive attack? I think the Bucs offense will put up points, but I’m worried about the direction Bowles’ group has been trending over the past few weeks.
Matt Matera: Bucs Learn From Week 1 Mistakes To Narrowly Win
The Saints are the one team that the Bucs just can’t seem to figure out recently having dropped four straight games to New Orleans, including the last three with Bruce Arians as head coach. After Monday night’s narrow victory over the one-win Giants, you might think that trend continues when the Saints come to Tampa on Sunday night, but that may not necessarily be the case.
While 5-2 on the season, New Orleans hasn’t made things look easy for themselves. They had their own close call defeating the Bears in overtime a week ago, and as the Bucs went on to dismantle mutual opponents in the Packers and Raiders, the Saints lost to both. It’s a week-to-week league so I’m not going to put all my stock into uninspiring victories on each side.
It’s tough to gage how much Antonio Brown will impact the Bucs’ offense in his first week here, but the fact that Chris Godwin is back is super important for the offense. The offense just flows so much better when he’s in there. Michael Thomas looks to be back as well for the Saints, but Carlton Davis III shut him down in Week 1 and he’ll do so again. The key for the Bucs’ in this second match-up? Don’t turn it over. If they do that, they’ll win by a narrow margin.
We’ve come a long way since the Saints beat down the Bucs in Week 1. Tampa Bay currently carries the league’s fourth-best scoring offense and the league’s seventh-best scoring defense while New Orleans ranks seventh and 23rd in those fields, respectively. As far as total DVOA, the Bucs have the top mark in the league while the the Saints sit seventh.
Now of course games aren’t played on spreadsheets, they’re played on the football field where Tampa Bay has looked far better this season, even since Week 1. While the Bucs stumbled against Chicago on Thursday Night Football last month and had a scare against the Giants this past Monday, they had absolutely dominant victories over the Raiders and previously undefeated Packers in between. The Saints on the other hand, despite still being 5-2, have losses to those same Packers and Raiders while pulling out one-score victories against the Chargers, Bears, Panthers and Lions. In fact, the Saints only victory that’s come by more than six points this year came against the Bucs.
NFC South games are always battles and this one likely won’t prove any different. The Saints’ secondary has been a thorn in New Orleans’ side this season, but they still have an immensely talented roster that includes an all-time great quarterback in Drew Brees, a Pro Bowl running back in Alvin Kamara and an All-Pro receiver in Michael Thomas on the mend, all led by Sean Payton. To put it simply, I see Tampa Bay as the better team in this match-up, but they’ll have to be at their best to knock off a New Orleans team that has won the last three divisional titles and their last four meetings with the Bucs.