New Orleans Saints: What to watch for vs. Buccaneers in Week 8
After a hard-fought victory in Seattle, the New Orleans Saints look to keep the momentum going against the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bucs, sitting atop the NFC South and second overall in the conference, have been hit hard with injuries so far this season. But none of that seems to matter when Tom Brady’s your quarterback. At 44 years old, Brady seems to just get better with age as he continues to defy the odds and beat father time.
He and the entire Tampa Bay offense have looked explosive as ever, even without wide receiver Antonio Brown last week. While it appears Brown will miss his second straight game this Sunday, the Bucs are starting to get healthier with tight end Rob Gronkowski, linebacker Lavonte David, and cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Richard Sherman all expected to play this weekend.
The Saints have also gotten a lot healthier the past two weeks, getting key players back on both sides of the ball, and trading to reacquire beloved running back Mark Ingram from the Houston Texans.
This will definitely be a tough game for the Saints to win, especially because of how thin they are at the wide receiver position. Last week, Saints wide receivers had an abysmal four catches for 43 total yards against a bad Seattle Seahawks defense.
That’s definitely not going to cut it against the Buccaneers who will no doubt take away the run game altogether with their ferocious front seven. They’ll look to force the Saints’ unproven receivers to beat them and most definitely double or even triple-team Alvin Kamara if necessary.
Kamara seems like the only offensive weapon the Saints have right now but getting Deonte Harris back would be a huge boost and open up the deep passing game. Even with Jamel Dean and Richard Sherman returning from injury, the Buccaneers secondary is suspect at best without top cornerbacks Carlton Davis III and Sean Murphy-Bunting in the lineup.
It’s a shame Michael Thomas isn’t ready in time for this matchup because the Saints could badly use him right now.
Let’s also not forget about Taysom Hill who has yet to practice since that scary hit he suffered in Washington. Say what you want about Hill but he’s a very vital part of this offense and the Saints lose another element to their game plan without him.
It will be up to the likes of Tre’Quan Smith, Kenny Stills, Ty Montgomery, Lil’Jordan Humphery, and most likely Kevin White once again if Harris is unable to go. This is unquestionably the worst wide receiver room in the league right now and the Saints have a real problem on their hands if they don’t address it before the trade deadline.
New Orleans Saints D-Line vs Bucs O-Line matchup to watch
I’ll be keeping an eye on the Saints defensive line vs the Bucs offensive line with the return of Marcus Davenport and David Onyemata from suspension. The d-line looked fantastic last week in Seattle and finally put consistent pressure on the quarterback.
Davenport is a difference-maker and needs to find a way to stay healthy as the pass rush is so much better with him on the field. Onyemata looks to make even more of an impact with his return this upcoming weekend.
The defensive tackle position hasn’t been able to generate any sort of interior pass rush whatsoever to start the season. Onyemata will no doubt look to change that and he will be welcomed back to New Orleans with open arms.
Of course, we can’t forget to mention the heated rivalry between Mike Evans and Marshon Lattimore. These two can’t stand each other, to put it bluntly. Lattimore has always seemed to play his best against Evans, holding him to 0 catches multiple times since entering the league in 2017.
In the Divisional round last year, Lattimore held Evans to just one catch for three yards and a touchdown. It will be interesting to see if Lattimore can continue his success on Sunday. He’ll need to step up once again for the Saints to have a shot at pulling off the upset.
It will be weird to see Jameis Winston in a Saints uniform going up against the Bucs after five years in Tampa. Winston looks like a different, smarter quarterback now since joining New Orleans last year and sitting behind Drew Brees. He has cut down on his turnovers so far with only three interceptions throughout six games.
Can he lead the Saints to an upset win and get his revenge against Brady and the Bucs? It will be a tough task for the 27-year old but he’s more than capable of pulling it off.
While it will be a hard-fought game, I can’t get past how bad the Saints’ pass catchers have been this season. If Harris can’t go, I’m not sure how the offense will be able to move the ball efficiently.
If they struggled against Seattle, imagine how bad things could look against a legit Buccaneers defense. Hopefully, Harris will be able to play and the Saints find a way to win to put themselves right in the thick of the NFC South race.