FAB 4. Bucs vs. Saints – 4 Match-ups To Watch

Each week you can find 4 Match-ups to Watch in the Fab 4 section of my SR’s Fab 5 columns. Here is an advanced look at Tampa Bay’s big prime time match-up against New Orleans where the 6-2 Bucs will battle the Saints on Sunday Night Football. Tampa Bay has won three games in a row and is seeking to widen its lead over New Orleans to two games in the NFC South.

Bucs LT Donovan Smith vs. Saints DE Trey Hendrickson

Former first-round pick Marcus Davenport wasn’t ready for the start of the season as he suffered an elbow injury in training camp and Hendrickson got the start instead for the first three games of the year. Davenport has played the last two weeks and has registered 1.5 sacks while rotating with Hendrickson, who is second on the team with 22 pressures and leads the Saints with six sacks. Despite the production, Hendrickson has only registered a 61.6 grade from Pro Football Reference, while Davenport leads New Orleans with an 88 overall grade and a 78.5 pass rush grade.

Bucs QB Tom Brady and Saints DE Trey Hendrickson

Bucs QB Tom Brady and Saints DE Trey Hendrickson – Photo by: USA Today

Smith gave up a sack to Hendrickson in their Week 1 match-up, in addition to two hurries and a QB hit combined to the likes of Hendrickson and Carl Granderson. Smith’s 58.8 pass blocking grade from PFF against New Orleans was his second-lowest of the year behind his Week 2 effort against Carolina (54.2). Whether it’s against Hendrickson on early downs or Davenport on third downs, Smith will have his hands full and needs to play his best game of the season. After getting flagged eight times in the first five games of the season, Smith hasn’t drawn a penalty in the last three games, which is a good sign for Tampa Bay.
ADVANTAGE: Hendrickson

Bucs WR Mike Evans vs. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore

Lattimore has had a really down season so far in 2020, and has surrendered four touchdowns and has just one interception. He has a paltry 50.3 overall PFF grade and a surprisingly low 48.8 coverage grade, allowing 26 catches for 370 yards, which is the most yards allowed by any Saints defender this year. Lattimore held a wounded Evans to two catches for 17 yards in Week 1, but did allow a touchdown and was flagged twice for pass interference.

Bucs WR Mike Evans

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Evans was suffering from a hamstring injury in Week 1, which hindered his ability to separate. Evans was hampered with an ankle sprain he suffered in Week 4 against Los Angeles, but has been on the mend ever since. Evans hasn’t had a great year in terms of production outside of his seven touchdown receptions, catching just 30 passes for 373 yards (12.4 avg.). He’s got a 65.2 grade from PFF, easily the lowest of his career, but Evans did have five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown in last week’s match-up with Giants cornerback James Bradberry, another nemesis. Evans and Lattimore have had their battles in the past, and the winner of this one could determine which team wins on Sunday night.

Bucs WR Carlton Davis vs. Saints WR Michael Thomas

Thomas, who was the league’s leading receiver last year, has played in just one game this season, which was the season opener against Tampa Bay. Davis got off to a great start to the season, holding him to just three catches for 17 yards. Thomas suffered an ankle sprain late in the game and hasn’t played since. While he was out of action, he punched a teammate in practice and then pulled a hamstring. The Saints are hoping that Thomas returns to the lineup on Sunday Night Football as their point production has fallen from 35 points in a win against the Lions to 30 points in an overtime win against the Chargers to 27 points in a victory against the Panthers to just 26 points in last week’s overtime win against the Bears.

Bucs CB Carlton Davis

Bucs CB Carlton Davis – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Davis has had a sensational third season in Tampa Bay and is playing at a Pro Bowl level. He hasn’t allowed a receiver to have more than 73 yards in any game, and has four games in which he’s held opposing pass-catchers to less than 20 yards. Davis, who has surrendered only two touchdowns this year, has 13 pass break-ups this season, and his career-high four interceptions are tied for the lead in the NFL. He’s a physical, press-man cornerback and the size and speed to hang with Thomas, who is a possession receiver and not fleet of foot.

Bucs ILB Devin White vs. Saints RB Alvin Kamara

Kamara’s worst PFF grade of the year (60.0) came in Week 1 against White and the Bucs defense, which held him to just 16 yards rushing on 12 carries (1.3 avg.) with one touchdown, and eight catches for 51 yards and one score. Kamara had 38 yards receiving on one catch alone, which came against on a double pass trick play from backup quarterback Taysom Hill. Otherwise White and the Bucs defense did a reasonably good job of stopping him outside of two red zone TDs. Since then, Kamara has had a really good year, and has 431 yards rushing (5.0 avg.) with four touchdowns, in addition to 55 catches for 556 yards (10.1 avg.) and three TDs in 2020.

Bucs LB Devin White and Saints RB Alvin Kamara

Bucs LB Devin White and Saints RB Alvin Kamara – Photo by: USA Today

White has had a solid year in run defense and blitzing, evidenced by a team-high 68 tackles and a career-high five sacks, which have all come in the last three games. PFF has a very low grade on White (47.7) this year, mainly because of his poor coverage ability, which is a 38.4. White had a 46 grade last week in coverage against the Giants and surrendered a receiving touchdown to running back Dion Lewis. With Kamara essentially getting a first down every time he catches the ball given his average, White will have to stick to Kamara like glue, which will be easier said than done. White has given up 36 catches for 383 yards and two touchdowns this season through the air.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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8 months ago

So you think the Bucs will lose 3 out of the next 4? Saints, Panthers, and Rams are CLEARLY beatable. The Bucs have every ability to win out the season – although difficult – just depends on how the team shows up.

8 months ago

Godwin has been hurt for big parts of 2 of his 3 seasons here and Shaq has 1 really good season in the midst of many other average ones. Both will come back on deals that’ll be deemed team friendly. Suh has to come back bc Vea is another thats been injured for 2 of his 3 seasons and we have drafted no quality depth to replace Suh. Succop returns and my guess is we extend LVD for another 2-3 seasons with some money created from Brady/D.Smith restructuring their contracts. 6-2 or 5-3 in the second half is fine but… Read more »

Reply to  stlbucsfan
8 months ago

Brady had been restructuring his contract for years while at New England to help out the team. And in the end was not resigned. I don;t think he would be willing to do that again. Even if the owner said they love him like a son.

8 months ago

Good read Scott. just a few comments. Barrett is playing in a more balanced defense. Sacks are spread more evenly. He is a top player but 19 1/2 sacks was a one year deal. The only thing disappointing about Godwin is his durability. When he is healthy he is Pro Bowl material. I never try to estimate future W/L. Like Brady you play them one game at a time. The Giants game is a perfect example. I don’t like the idea of trading Brate. Gronk might leave next year and Howard (though talented) is injury prone. Brate has delivered consistently.… Read more »

The Wall
8 months ago

Totally agree with choices. Barrett seems to have one move- speed around the outside. His offside penalties are also a concern. So glad we franchised him. Looks like a good player, just not a great player.

8 months ago

Scott, I really appreciated the mention of Alex kappa and his improvement. A few years ago Many people are clamoring for him to be cut as he never played and the Bucs said he wasn’t ready. I know players stories are tougher now, but I would love a story on his development over the years, what he has worked on physically and mentally to change him self from being on the verge of being cut or at the bottom of the roster to a quality starter. I bring this up simply because that goes through my mind whenever I see… Read more »

8 months ago

Scott, spot on with the awards.
I see us 12-4 for season. 2nd half 6-2; those losses coming from Saints & Rams. Of course if we beat the Saints, we might run it out.

Reply to  Horse
8 months ago

I think the Bucs have a way better chance of beating the Saints than the Chiefs but that doesn’t mean the Saints don’t match up really well and give a huge competition. I still don’t think the Bucs have hit their ceiling. If you consider the first 4 weeks preseason, Bucs are only on game 5 as the “on-field” product.

As I said there isn’t a team that outright crushes the Bucs. They have all the tools to contend with anyone – even the Steelers. Just depends on injuries and what Bucs team shows up.

Last edited 8 months ago by eaustinyoung
Reply to  Horse
8 months ago

If we did a week 9-12 power ranking, I’d say:

  1. Saints because it’s a grudge match and the fate of the NFC South depends on it.
  2. Chiefs. They’re the top dog as SB champs until the playoffs are over.
  3. Rams. The Bucs 7-9 team dropped 55 on them on the road and shocked the entire NFL. I picked the Bucs to win that game last year. Dolphins defeated them all on the defense and the Bucs have a much better defense than the Dolphins.
  4. Panthers.
Reply to  eaustinyoung
8 months ago

This is only a power ranking with respect to how they matchup with the Bucs. Not team quality.

8 months ago

teams pay for sacks – not pressures

Actually, no, teams pay for effective play. Shaq Barrett is delivering consistent effective play, and that is not just sacks, but the whole game – pressures, hits, sacks, TFLs. assists, etc.

Reply to  Naplesfan
8 months ago

Agreed. Aaron Donald has had sack issues this season. You think the Rams regret paying him? Disruption is a very powerful tool.

8 months ago

It still stands that we can beat any team we play. It all depends on if we show up and don’t beat ourselves (and the officials stop missing calls like calling us Offsides when our opponents should have been called for a False Start. It’s happened twice this season already and I can’t remember it happening to us in the past but maybe once in a while). With the talent we have, our success is completely up to us. We have to beat the Saints Sunday Night, let’s start with that.