Keys to the Game: Buccaneers vs. Saints

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Offense

Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) scores a touchdown during the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Panthers win 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints offense was held in check by the Panthers last week. Yes, the stat sheet technically tells a different tale with the 365 total yards of offense the Saints put up, and even the 126 total rushing yards was quite impressive on the Panthers top rush defense. However, when you only muster 13 points, and don’t get your first touchdown until the fourth quarter, that’s why I say that the Saints offense was held in check.

The big key is to see if and how the Saints return to form. They struggled heavily in the screen game, and we have seen some teams really start to solve for the Saints lethal attack on offense by eliminating the long ball. I like Darren Sproles to play a huge factor in this game, as he only had 20 total yards of offense against the Panthers, which is very uncharacteristic.

Dare I say we may see (or should see) a good dose of Mark Ingram? Ingram had a fairly solid game against the Panthers last week, carrying the ball 13 times for 83 yards. In the first game, which seemed oh so long ago, Ingram was shut down in a terrible way, managing just 20 yards on 8 carries. I can’t help but point out that in last year’s 41-0 thrashing of the Bucs, Ingram carried the ball 14 times for 90 yards, and scored. I would love to see lightning strike twice.

What to Watch For: The response and performance of the offensive line. The unit that gave up six sacks on Drew Brees last week, and more importantly has surrendered the most of his career, is going to face a good bit of fire this week against the Bucs. The front seven pass rush of the Bucs is a very talented unit, and the Saints would like to have some consistency with protecting Drew. Terron Armstead will make another start at Left Tackle, which makes you wonder what the future of Charles Brown may be at this point. Armstead had a very rough debut, but we have to like his ability to bounce back. I’d also say look for what happens to the starters in this game depending on what happens early. The Bucs aren’t exactly the league’s best in terms of ‘clean’ play, and we don’t need to risk injury if this game gets out of hand.

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Tags: Drew Brees Greg Schiano Mike Glennon NFL 2013 Rob Ryan Sean Payton Week 17 Matchups: Buccaneers Vs. Saints