New Orleans Saints: Previewing team’s divisional round matchup vs Bucs

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) - Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) - Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

Bucs Offense vs Saints Defense

In their last meeting in Week 9, the Saints held the Bucs to 3 points in primetime. A lot has changed since then.

Since their bye week, the Bucs rank 5th with .156 expected points added (EPA) per play. Meanwhile, they have scored 153 combined points in their last 14 quarters, and just dropped 31 points against the Washington Football Team, considered one of the premier defenses in the NFL.

For the first half of the season, Tampa Bay run the ball often on early downs, which limited their effectiveness. Recently, though, they have become a much more pass-heavy offense. Hence, why they now have the fifth-best EPA/play on early downs.

It makes sense as to why passing the ball more would be correlated with substantial success for the Bucs.

Obviously, passing the ball is simply more efficient than rushing, but that is particularly true when considering the weapons they have. Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Antonio Brown are probably the best receiving corps in the NFL, while Rob Gronkowski is one of the top tight ends.

Then, you add in the quarterback throwing them the football- Tom Brady has been sensational.

With one of the top average depth of targets in the NFL, Brady is pushing the ball down the field, and, as a result, Tampa Bay has an extremely explosive offense. That isn’t great news for the Saints, who have generally been vulnerable to big plays down the field.

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The best way to slow down the Bucs would be to generate pressure against Brady, but, unfortunately, he has the third-lowest sack rate in the NFL. Not only has the Bucs’ offensive line played well this season, but Brady gets rid of the ball quickly.

Yet, in Week 9, New Orleans’ pass rush generated 3 sacks and 9 quarterback hits on Brady.

Getting past right tackle Tristan Wirfs is going to be a tall task. However, left tackle Donovan Smith has had his struggles this season, so here’s hoping Trey Hendrickson is healthy enough to play: he sacked Brady twice in that matchup.

Also, Tampa Bay’s interior offensive line may be without Alex Cappa, which could open up an opportunity for David Onyemata to make an impact.

The Saints are well-built to stop the run, but I don’t see how they slow down the Bucs.

They are built with their pass rush, yet that won’t affect Brady, and with Tampa Bay finally meshing together, no defense has been able to stop them. Expecting Brady and this offense to be spooked by this defense for the third time would be foolish, in my opinion.