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Gameday Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints

Injuries and strong defensive play on both sides could be the story in this much anticipated Week 2 divisional matchup.

It may be early, but with both the Buccaneers and Saints coming off week 1 victories, this game will determine first place in the NFC South Division.

The Bucs put on a defensive clinic vs. the Cowboys last Sunday night. The offense ran the ball extremely well but sputtered at times – primarily in the red zone. To make matters worse, key players: Donovan Smith and Chris Godwin, both suffered injuries. Unfortunately for the Bucs, it appears as though neither player will be available to play this week. Julio Jones is also a game time decision.

READ MORE: Staff Score Predictions: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

The Saints have their own injury issues. Alvin Kamara, one of the most dynamic playmakers in the game, is out of commission with a rib injury.

Despite the injuries on the offensive side of the ball, it appears both defenses will be close to full strength. This is especially good news for the Bucs, who came out of the gate operating like a well-oiled machine in the season opener, holding the Cowboys to just three points.

Meanwhile, the Saints offensive line struggled vs. Atlanta – with Jameis Winston operating under duress for much of the first half. But in true Jameis fashion, he mounted an extraordinary fourth-quarter comeback, erasing a 16-point deficit to lead his team to victory. In doing so, it appears as though his chemistry with Michael Thomas took a major step forward, with the two connecting on multiple touchdowns through the air in the second half.

Despite giving up 26 points to the Atlanta Falcons last week, you’d be foolish to assume the Saints' defense won’t be a strength for them this season. Similar to the Bucs, they’ve got elite talent at every level, continuity with each other, and the system, as well as a fantastic defensive play-caller in Dennis Allen.

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With Josh Wells set to start at left tackle in replace of Donovan Smith, and two first-year starters in Luke Goedeke (rookie) and Robert Hainsey, playing in just their second NFL game, the left side of the Buccaneers' offensive line has a huge challenge in front of them. You can expect Dennis Allen to dial up a lot of pressure, and aim his attack specifically at that vulnerable section of the Buccaneers’ offensive line.

READ MORE: Tom Brady dealing with pain after Tampa Bay's win over Dallas

There’s no question that the Saints have had the Bucs’ number since Tom Brady arrived in Tampa. He’s yet to secure a regular season victory vs. the Saints. If he hopes to do so today, it’s going to require a strong effort from his offensive line, and another dominating performance from Todd Bowles’ defense. 

Elite talent all over the field. Familiarity with the opponent. A history of bad blood. This week 2 matchup between the Saints and the Buccaneers has it all. Don't be surprised if we see another low-scoring game, with whichever defense is able to make the most plays, determining the final outcome. 

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