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Saints vs. Buccaneers: Five brave predictions

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Dec 11, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton looks down during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New Orleans Saints 16-11. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton looks down during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New Orleans Saints 16-11. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Saints host the Buccaneers this week on Christmas Eve, two weeks after a thrashing in Tampa Bay. The Saints season is all but over, so we’re going to have some fun with these weeks predictions.

After a season of heartbreak and frustration, I’m somewhat relieved to no longer care about the final games’ outcomes. I mean, yes, I’d like the Saints to win. I’ll feel much better after the season at 8-8 than I would at 7-9 or 6-10. But I’m not throwing my computer across the room anymore when Brees throws a pick or the secondary gives up a big touchdown. I’ve found some semblance of inner peace. So I can make some silly predictions in good conscience.

All I’m looking for this week are positive signs. And I thought about writing a piece on what sort of signs I’ll be looking for. But in the end, I wrote this, a bit of a pointless exercise but a fun one nonetheless. And for a Christmas Eve game, we’d might as well have some fun. We all know what positive signs we’re looking for, and we’ll certainly know when we see or don’t see them.

So without further ado, we’ll get started with our five brave predictions for Saturday. Starting off a little boring…

Mark Ingram’s frustration continues as neither run game gets off the ground.

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Mark Ingram didn’t come off very well during last Sunday’s contest against the Cardinals. Admittedly, Ingram ran very well on the day and was rewarded by coming off the field on goal line situations. I’m sure, if I were in his shoes, I’d be frustrated too. But man, have some perspective. Payton gave those goal line carries to Tim Hightower for a reason. I know they’re all athletes, and I love to see competitiveness like what we saw in Ingram. But still, time and place.

Well, I’m predicting that his frustration continues this Saturday. Hightower and Bucs RB Doug Martin will get in on that action as well. Neither run game will get anything going.

I’m basing this on two things: Sean Payton’s propensity to abandon the run against strong run defenses, as demonstrated by these two teams’ last matchup. Ingram and Hightower combined for only 13 rushing attempts. Only 45 yards. Beyond a possible offensive shakeup after a horrendous performance in Tampa Bay, nothing’s changed to suggest either back will garner more carries.

And on the flip side, Doug Martin has averaged just 2.9 yards per carry this season. The Saints run defense is much improved, and it’s no great stretch to think they completely shut Martin down. Jacquizz Rodgers is no great talent either. So either this is a defensive showdown or an aerial onslaught. But the first of my predictions: a toothless running game for either side.

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