The New Orleans Saints (5-2) travel to Raymond James Stadium to battle their division rivals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2) in Week 9 of the 2020 NFL regular season. The two teams met earlier this year, back in Week 1, where the Saints were victorious by the score of 34-24. Eight Weeks later the two teams are where many predicted, in contention for the NFC SOUTH crown and prime playoff teams. So what should Saints fans be on the look out for in Week 9? Below are three things to watch in the pivotal division matchup.
Multiple WRs Could Return to Action in Week 9
Last week against the Chicago Bears, the New Orleans Saints were without three WRs in Michael Thomas (Hamstring), Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19) and Marquez Callaway (Ankle). While no status has been released on any of the trio's availability for this weekend (though all 3 practiced according to Wednesday's injury report), Sanders went to his Instagram account to say he is “done with quarantine” and hopes to back in Week 9. Along with Sanders, all early indications point towards the long awaited return of All-Pro WR Michael Thomas this Week. Thomas has not played since Week 1 against Tampa Bay.
No one will be happier about the return of the Saints top two targets more than QB Drew Brees. Prior to landing on the COVID-19 list, Emmanuel Sanders began to form a true growing chemistry with Brees setting a career high in single game receptions against the Chargers. When it comes to Michael Thomas what more is there to say? Brees' most trusted target from a year ago will be welcomed back with open arms. Particularly on third down, where the Saints struggled mightily on Sunday afternoon.
The Buccaneers also gain reinforcements at the wide receiver position but not from a player returning from injury. WR Antonio Brown will make his Tampa Bay debut after serving an eight-game suspension to begin the season. Brown was officially signed by the team on October 27th.
The Potential Final Brees vs. Brady Matchup
Who would have thought we would see this kind of play from two QBs in their early 40s? Brees and Brady have provided fans with a stellar 2020 following struggles through the first 3 weeks. The NFL's All-Time leaders in Passing TDs and passing yards battle for the second time this season and 7th time in their storied careers. Brees leads the all-time series 4-2 with the latest victory coming back in Week 1 of this season.
As the two future first-ballot hall of fame quarterbacks enter the twilight of their careers, Sunday night could very well be the final regular season meeting between them. Brees, 41 and Brady, 43 have combined for 41 NFL seasons, 156,074 passing yards, 1,121 TDs and 393 wins.
If this is the final time two of the game's all-time greats meet, it will be quite a football game. National television, both teams riding win streaks, and playoff and division crown implications... the NFL could not of helped write a better script but most importantly as a fan make sure you enjoy it. Who knows the next time you'll see greats like this play in the league at the same time?
A Game With Huge NFC SOUTH Implications
To say this is the most important game of the Saints entire season would not be an understatement. At the halfway point of the season, New Orleans is on pace to finish with a record of 11-5 or 12-4 but so is Tampa Bay. With their victory in Week 1, the Saints hold the cards to pave their own path to a fourth consecutive NFC SOUTH crown and it starts by sweeping the Buccaneers in Week 9.
With a win New Orleans will hold the series sweep of Tampa Bay which could be pivotal at the end of the regular season. If the team's were to tie a top the NFC SOUTH, New Orleans would be awarded the tie-break making them NFC SOUTH champions. However, if the two teams tie at the end of the regular season and Tampa Bay marches on to victory Sunday Night they will have split the season series. Thus bringing them to the next tie-breaker, record against the division.
There are a lot of storylines when it comes to this Sunday Night Football matchup. But beyond the storylines it breaks down to be one of the most crucial NFC matchups of the season. Brady has not been swept in a division series in 19 years and if the Saints want to be viewed as true Super Bowl contenders that streak will have to be snapped in Week 9.
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