December 16, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws over Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) and defensive end Michael Bennett (71) during the first half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Saints vs. Buccaneers is almost here live from Tampa Bay, where Buccaneers running back Doug Martin and Co. will look to take down Drew Brees and the Saints in a battle for NFC South supremacy.
Below is our interview with Howell concerning the game. Read on to find out how the opposite feels about their chances Sunday.
1. How does the heartbreaking loss in Week 1 to New York impact the Buccaneers and this game?
The team has fallen into a bit of drama and controversy after the loss. This locker room of players doesn’t love Greg Schiano, which means losses and adversity split the foundation of the team. But they’ve recovered from lasses before, and they’ll do it again. It’s just bad timing to have the media and fans questioning your coach and quarterback heading into an important division game to avoid falling to 0-2.
2. What’s the scoop with the Josh Freeman controversy? Are we seeing a bit of a divide already? Is this something that is going to play a factor?
Freeman has absolutely no confidence left, and his team and coaches have no confidence in him. He has all the talent he needs, and his teammates all see that and know that about him. But he doesn’t make the right decisions, and he caves under pressure.
The drama surrounding him at the moment seems to have “passed over” at One Buc Place, as players and coaches are dismissing it and saying nice things about Freeman. But the Buccaneers are on the verge of a serious problem at the quarterback position. Freeman’s Week 1 performance left much to be desired, so he’ll be under even more pressure in Week 2.
3. Outside of Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin, who are the players Saints’ fans should be most concerned about?
On offense, Mike Williams is the player who can take advantage of defenses loading up to stop Vincent Jackson. Williams isn’t as reliable of a pass catcher as Vincent Jackson, and he doesn’t have the same elite size and route running ability. But he attacks the football, and is an excellent target downfield on fade routes, jump balls, and back shoulder throws. If the Buccaneers can get time to throw the ball down the field, look for Williams to be on the receiving end.
4. Do you anticipate Tampa Bay struggling defensively against Brees and Co. after losing to a rookie quarterback?
The Buccaneers lost to a rookie quarterback, but they never struggled against him. They were a few penalties away from a shutout, and obviously limiting those penalties will be key.
But Drew Brees and the Saints are a totally different animal. Darrelle Revis is the “old” Darrelle Revis, and he’ll be fine against whichever receiver he lines up against on Sunday. The challenge then becomes containing Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. Mark Barron was advertised as a good coverage man against tight ends coming out of college, so he’ll need to play extremely well to help his team stop Graham. And Lavonte David and the other linebackers must continue their solid play from last week (they actually had a very good game before the infamous penalty at the end from David), especially when it comes to containing Darren Sproles.
5. What’s the outlook for this game from a Tampa Bay perspective? Main storyline? How does the game ultimately play out?
Tampa Bay fans are looking for a better, more prepared team in Week 2. All of the doubts supporters had about the team in the preseason were not fixed before Week 1, as the offense was out of sync, and the defense couldn’t get pressure on the quarterback without a blitz.
Josh Freeman has to have a better week, and the team (and storyline) will either follow Freeman to rock bottom, or chase his rise back to respectability. The team needs to support him (better blocking, better running game, and better playcalling), but it ultimately falls on Freeman’s ability to make decisions and execute his responsibilities.
That said, I don’t think the Bucs can earn a win against the Saints. There are too many weapons on offense for the Saints, and that will give them more points than the Tampa Bay offense can hope to score. I believe the Saints will win 27-17.
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