New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Matchups, prediction for huge NFC South showdown

    The New Orleans Saints try to outlast the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to keep their playoff hopes alive. Can they win four in a row against Brady?

    The New Orleans Saints face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a matchup that has playoff implications for both sides. The Buccaneers are fighting for the top seed in the NFC playoff picture. Despite being 6-7 and currently holding the 11th seed in the NFC, the Saints have an identical record to the seventh seed.

    New Orleans Saints offense vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense

    The Saints’ offense is terrible. There is simply no way to sugarcoat that. It was okay when Jameis Winston was still healthy, as their passing attack, although underutilized, was successful. That is no longer the case.

    Their offensive struggles are also amplified by their inability to run the football efficiently, even with their elite offensive line healthy and Alvin Kamara in the backfield. Without Kamara and the two stud tackles, the rushing attack was nonexistent.

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    Meanwhile, despite missing multiple cornerbacks and Jordan Whitehead for most of the season, the Buccaneers rank ninth in EPA (Expected Points Added) and 10th in DVOA (Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric).

    As will become painfully evident in the matchups portion, there is no weak link in this defense. The Buccaneers likely have the most well-rounded roster in the NFL.

    Taysom Hill vs. Buccaneers defense

    Hill is an outstanding athlete, but he is not the present or the future of Saints quarterbacking. He’s 31 years old, for Pete’s sake! At some point, we have to stop with this charade that he’s got some sort of developmental upside like one can somehow learn to play the most challenging position in team sports at a high level while splitting time at a multitude of other positions.

    Did I mention he’s THIRTY-ONE!?!

    He’s also in possession of the worst CPOE (Completion Percentage Over Expected) of the 43 QBs with at least 100 plays. That includes the rookies, who are all in far worse situations than Hill. And yes, I am aware that he has a mallet finger. I’m confident that it wouldn’t make too much of a difference if he didn’t.

    Advantage: Buccaneers

    Saints skill position players vs. Buccaneers secondary

    The Saints cut receiver Kenny Stills somewhat surprisingly this week, leaving little name recognition to the offense. Deonte Harris was already out-snapping Stills as is, and he brings an element of speed that Stills had, but in a more nimble frame.

    However, Tre’Quan Smith and Marquez Callaway don’t do much to move the needle. That is especially true when facing Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Antoine Winfield Jr. And that’s not even mentioning how good Lavonte David is in coverage against tight ends and backs.

    The Saints’ skill position talent starts and finishes with Alvin Kamara. That is simply not enough.

    Advantage: Buccaneers

    Saints offensive line vs. Buccaneers defensive front

    A healthy Saints offensive line could suffice against the defensive front Tampa Bay boasts. However, the Saints will be without Andrus Peat (say what you will about him, there’s a reason he was starting over Calvin Throckmorton) and possibly right tackle Ryan Ramczyk. Moreover, Terron Armstead has battled through injury all season.

    Meanwhile, the Buccaneers, again, don’t have a real weakness on the defensive line. Jason Pierre-Paul is not the same player he once was, but they have Joe Tryon-Shoyinka in reserve. Vita Vea is a demigod, and he’s unfair to opposing offensive lines. A man that large should not move the way he does.

    Then, they have Ndamukong Suh still getting things done on the interior and one of the better pass rushers in the league on the outside in Shaq Barrett. The Bucs can also bring Devin White into the fold as a rusher and David running around like a tackling machine at the second level. It’s absurd that they’ve captured so much talent at one time. The scary part is they haven’t even played their best football.

    Advantage: Buccaneers

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense vs. New Orleans Saints defense

    The Bucs have the best offense in the NFL. This should surprise absolutely nobody, given they have no weakness on this side of the ball. It’s honestly not even that close. They’re the most efficient offense by a substantial margin.

    Meanwhile, the Saints have a top-10 defense in the NFL from both an EPA/play and DVOA perspective. Dennis Allen has made them a perennial powerhouse on defense, which is almost unheard of in the modern NFL that is so volatile. If the Saints want any chance of somehow winning this football game, they’ll need to play their best football of the season defensively.

    Tom Brady vs. Saints defense

    Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback ever to play the game. And he’s playing at as good a level as he ever has at an age where most people have already bought a Corvette and gotten a divorce. His midlife crisis is choosing between one of his two top-15 NFL receivers or the greatest TE ever who is back healthy. It’s sickening to think about.

    Nevertheless, the Saints have very few weaknesses on defense. They have big-time playmakers at all three levels and are an aggressive and intelligent unit. However, they can also be too aggressive, particularly trying to fit against the run from the second and third level, leaving them susceptible to big plays.

    Advantage: Buccaneers

    Buccaneers skill position players vs. Saints secondary

    Things get even more unfair when we look at the Buccaneers’ vault of weaponry. They’ll be down Antonio Brown because of his own idiocy but still boast possibly the most dangerous three-headed monster of pass catchers in the NFL.

    All Rob Gronkowski does is score touchdowns and make awful USAA commercials. Mike Evans is one of the most physically gifted receivers in the NFL, and Chris Godwin might be just a smidgen below Cooper Kupp as the most well-rounded receiver in football.

    However, the Saints’ secondary is nothing to scoff at. Marshon Lattimore is one of the most talented cornerbacks in the NFL. Not many people compete at the level Chauncey Gardner-Johnson does, and although Paulson Adebo has had a tumultuous rookie season, he’s athletically gifted and showing improvement. Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins aren’t a lousy safety tandem, either. There aren’t many weaknesses.

    Advantage: Buccaneers

    Buccaneers offensive line vs. Saints defensive front

    Tampa Bay has one of the best offensive lines in football. Trying to figure out how they executed such excellent roster construction scrambles my brain more than the five recorded concussions I’ve endured.

    From left to right, they continue to dominate and remain healthy, which is the biggest key to their success. For two seasons now, the Buccaneers have remained relatively healthy. Drafting Tristan Wirfs certainly helps as well.

    But again, the Saints also have an outstanding unit themselves. Shy Tuttle has been one of my favorite players to watch this season, and David Onyemata has long been one of my favorite underrated defenders in the league. Marcus Davenport was overdrafted, but he’s coming on strong now in Year 4. It’ll be interesting to see how Cameron Jordan’s status develops over time.

    Advantage: Push

    Betting lines and score prediction

    • Spread: Buccaneers -11 (Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
    • Moneyline: Buccaneers -550, Saints +400
    • Total: 46.5

    The Bucs have a far better roster; that much is clear from the preview. Yet, Tampa Bay has already lost to the Saints in the game New Orleans lost Winston and inserted Trevor Siemian. They were better last season, too, but still lost both games against the Saints in the regular season.

    Saints vs. Buccaneers Prediction: Buccaneers 28, Saints 21

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