Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) vs. New Orleans Saints (1-4)
Last week was a potential glimpse of the future in Tampa, but it’s also not anything we haven’t seen before. What we haven’t seen before is great games strung together, and this regime has a chance to start that trend. The Saints aren’t a good team this year, but they’re still as good as the Bucs and still better on paper.
Jonathan Vilma is returning to the Saints lineup this week, and that will likely dominate the headline of this game. But the real question is how will he effect the flow of this offense. Tampa has shown they want a vertical style of offense that features a lot of home run swings to Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson. That was cute last week and it definitely worked in the Bucs favor, but can it work again?
Tampa will challenge the Saints deep, and the New Orleans secondary hasn’t given Freeman any reason to be afraid. They’ve allowed six passing touchdowns in their last two games, so this home run style of offense has to be drooling.
The key will be Freeman getting comfortable again and staying in that comfort zone. He won’t become the quarterback the Bucs want until he shakes the mad case of the herby-jeebies he has in the pocket at times. The Saints have flustered Freeman in the past and there is no reason to believe they won’t smack him around this week.
That’s where Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount come into play. Last week the ground game was effectively used and this week should be no different. Martin got the message during the bye week that he needs to run better, and so far so good from the rookie.
So essentially the theme on Sunday will be continuity. The Bucs need to continue their success and build on their production without slipping up. And if nothing else, even the Rah-Rah Raheem team from last year beat he Saints in Tampa and that was when the Saints were hot. But an interesting thing to note: the Bucs didn’t pick things up until head coach Sean Payton was knocked out with a broken leg. Payton won’t be present on Sunday and his absence has proven to be fatal for the Saints this season against far more talented opponents.
Just keep that in mind for more than one reason.
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Nat’l TV: N/A
Bucs TV: FOX 13
Away TV: WVUE 8 (FOX)
Announcers: Dick Stockton/John Lynch
Live Stream: NFL Live Stream
Radio: WDAE 620AM (Tampa), WWL 870AM (New Orleans)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 829 (Bucs Feed), Sirius 819 (Saints Feed)
Weather: 86°F, Sunny
Line: Saints by 2
Key Matchup: Josh Freeman vs. Secondary
Last week Josh Freeman put together a solid week, but now he needs to build on that and continue his success. The thing with Freeman is he’s been notoriously inconsistent and if he comes back with a poor week against the Saints, his haters will have barrels of fuel to pour on their fire of angst. One thing Freeman needs to be consistent is to be confident and the only way that happens is if he strings together successful weeks — see the wheel here? Freeman needs another solid week, and even though we’re not at a make or break point in his career, bad games against rivals never bodes well.
Last Week: Buccaneers beat Chiefs 38-10, Saints were on a BYE
Last Meeting: November 6, 2011– Buccaneers 16, Saints 27
Series History (Since 2001): Bucs lead series 11-10
Key Bucs Storyline: Will Josh Freeman build on his success from Week 6?
Opposing View: How will Jonathan Vilma’s presence change the team’s outlook?
Prediction: Bucs 34, Saints 31