What can we expect from key New Orleans Saints players that are back from injuries? Will they make adjustments after a slow start against the Chicago Bears? Another Marshon Lattimore vs. Mike Evans matchup? Who will cover Antonio Brown?
Every week, Sports Illustrated's AllBucs.com will be joined by the Buccaneers opponent's corresponding beat reporter to preview the game. With playoff implications on the line, we're joined by Bob Rose of SI's Saints News Network to preview Tampa Bay vs. New Orleans!
1. The Saints had a ton of key players come back on Sunday. Who should Bucs fans keep an eye on and how do you think those players will help the Saints on Sunday?
Rose: Obviously if you’re playing the New Orleans Saints, the key is to get pressure on Drew Brees. When everyone is healthy on this offense, it goes through Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. Both have had a lot of success throughout their careers against Tampa’s defense.
The Bucs have contained Kamara fairly well but he’s scored 10 career touchdowns against them. In the red zone, Kamara will be the key for the Bucs defense. Receiver Michael Thomas is one of the best in the league. New Orleans used him as a decoy on Sunday and it freed up Deonte Harris. It will be interesting to see how Sean Payton utilizes Harris. Bruce Arians mentioned that was the player they were most worried about.
2. The Saints had a slow start against the Bears. This is a totally different kind of matchup though. What adjustments need to be made?
Rose: I get what everyone’s saying about it being a slow start but if you look at Sean Payton’s game planning, they came out pretty aggressively with the pass. This is different because these two teams know each other well. You should expect New Orleans to come out and establish balance early on because they’re going to try and protect Drew Brees against that Tampa Bay pass rush.
3. Marshon Lattimore talked about the energy the Saints have on defense right now, they only allowed nine points against the Bears. What can we expect to see from them up against Tom Brady and this Bucs offense who also have their fair share of key players?
Rose: Lattimore has always had a lot of success against Mike Evans. Watching those two go at it is such a physical battle, every single snap. It’s pay-per-view worthy. Antonio Brown and Tom Brady are operating on a very good chemistry level right now. I like the Saints' chances because they have Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins, but Tampa Bay is going to counter with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. I have no idea who is going to cover Antonio Brown. That’s probably going to be the matchup that determines the outcome of this game.
4. This is the third matchup of the season. Brady vs Brees. It’s such a close match up, but I still want your predictions for Sunday!
Rose: It is close. It’s literally a coin flip. I think the New Orleans defense is playing at a championship level. They have Tom Brady’s career kryptonite and that is interior pressure, beating Tampa’s offensive tackles along the outside as well to give a quarterback like Brady minimal pocket maneuverability. As long as they can pressure Brady, I love New Orleans chances in this game. I think both offenses are going to put some points on the board. I’m going to go with New Orleans, 33-30.