We’re going to try something new, each week we break down the games and give you an idea of what the Buccaneers will need to do to win, now we’re also going to add this column and explain why they’ll lose. This does need to come with a disclaimer though, we at Pewter Plank have never and will never root for the Bucs to lose, this is just a devil’s advocate kind of thing. This isn’t even necessarily fun to write (though some weeks it may be) but it is a perspective we feel has been left under-articulated. So here goes…
The New Orleans Saints will beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today at Raymond James Stadium. That isn’t a pessimistic reaction to last week’s loss either, it’s a reaction to the Bucs injuries and the way the team matches up against the Saints. This isn’t a good week for the Bucs to square off against the NFC South leaders. It’s quite possible they could end the afternoon two games down in their division.
The biggest, most ominous reason the Bucs are going to struggle is the glaring absence of LeGarrette Blount. Blount is rapidly becoming one of the most respected young running backs in football. He was impressive against Atlanta down the stretch and on national TV he pretty much put away the Colts. Defensive coordinators are beginning to have to game-plan to shut down the Bucs’ power back. He is a very potent weapon even before the game starts because he forces opposing defenses to respect the Buccaneers’ rushing attack and cuts down on the time they can spend preparing for Josh Freeman.
Blount is out.
Now, answer me this question objectively, without him in the lineup is there any reason to respect the Buccaneers’ run game? If you think there is you’re being a bit of a homer. The offensive line is definitely above average to good depending on the week, but do Earnest Graham or Kregg Lumpkin frighten anyone?
The Saints really don’t need to worry about the Bucs running the ball with consistency today, their running game just went from relevant to sideshow. Think about how successful Tampa was last season before the emergence of Blount. It’s the same backs (minus Cadillac) and the same line. I’m not being overly dramatic when I say I expect that level of production today. I expect the kind of production the team got after Blount left last week.
The offense is now one-dimensional and the Saints will spend the afternoon trying to irritate Josh Freeman with pressure and different looks in coverage.
Now couple that with a Saints offense that can score points in bunches and a Buccaneers defense that is without their best defensive tackle and has a somewhat porous secondary and you could be looking at a repeat of last year’s 31-6 outcome in Tampa.
If the Saints are able to run the ball against the Bucs without McCoy things will fall apart. It’s likely they’ll be able to run, Mark Ingram is a solid between the tackles back and Darren Sproles has nightmarish speed and quickness of the edge and in space. That’s a tough combination for any defense. If the Bucs have to start committing extra linebackers and DB’s to stop the run that will let Drew Brees (who currently has a QB rating north of 100) tear the secondary to shreds.
I haven’t even gotten to Jimmy Graham. Graham is a terrible match-up for anyone. He’s about 6’8, he moves well and he has developed good hands and a solid rapport with Brees. Tampa will likely look to double team Graham if he gets going which will compromise their run defense even more and leave the Bucs corners tied up one on one with the speedy Saint receivers.
The Bucs will be spread pretty thin on Sunday, it’s inevitable they’ll give up points and they’ll likely have a one-dimensional offense trying to keep pace for them.
The Saints actually have something to prove here too, they had to really grind to beat Cam Newton and the Panthers last week and they will be looking to bounce back against a Bucs team that is currently running second in the division. You can bet the Bucs will get the Saints’ A-game.
If Tampa doesn’t start well or struggles with personnel and injuries as much as they could, then they may be back at .500 by day’s end.