Halloween sees the Saints (4-2) and Bucs (5-1) lock up for an important NFC South showdown. New Orleans is coming off a hard-fought road win over the Seahawks, while Tampa cruised over the Bears in Week 8. The Saints certainly have a bitter taste of defeat in its mouth after last year's NFC Divisional Game, and Tampa remembers how the regular season matchups went.
Here's a few things we'll be paying attention to as this game unfolds.
What to Watch For
Winston vs. Brady. Drew Brees not facing off head-to-head with Tom Brady is something we can't overlook, but Jameis Winston gets to square off against his former team. You know this Saints squad would love to get a win for Winston, and it's going to take a bit more offensively to beat the Bucs. There's little to no doubt that this storyline will be heightened ahead of this game, but I think the bigger emphasis will go on the primetime affair in Tampa on Dec. 19. Still, Brady has been a 'Wonder of the World' in his effectiveness, and Winston has had a nice start to his time in New Orleans.
The Superdome Impact. This is America's Game of the Week on FOX, and most of the country will be able to tune in to this game. Saints fans made a tremendous impact in the Dome opener against the Giants, and they'll need to be even bigger for this one. Hopefully, we can see a better end result in this one. You just can't help but wonder what impact crowd noise might have made in the playoff game last year.
The Mark Ingram Return. Sean Payton said that Ingram is arriving to New Orleans on Thursday morning, but won't be practicing. When asked about whether or not he'll play in this game, Payton said, "Absolutely. That's a good chance. Absolutely. That's a high chance." The energy he'll bring to the table is going to be electric, and you might as well let him lead the Who Dat Chant and introduce him as a starter while you're at it. His role is uncertain, but expect him to get several touches. This also should help out Alvin Kamara some, a player the Bucs have done a good job isolating.
Receiver Production, Anyone? For starters, we have to monitor the status of Taysom Hill (concussion) and Deonte Harris (hamstring). Not having them in the lineup has really hurt the offense, and hopefully they get back to practicing and can play in this one. The wide receiver production has a been a very sore spot for New Orleans this year, and it doesn't appear to be getting better with Michael Thomas still sidelined. Simply put, the group has to be better and show up for the Saints to be able to win.
Lattimore vs. Evans. This is always pay-per-view type entertainment. These two battle a lot, with Marshon Lattimore coming out on top a good bit. Mike Evans knows this, and will surely want to change that up on Sunday. You saw what happened between D.K. Metcalf and Lattimore on Monday night, so it'll be interesting to see the level of intensity on this one.
Kicker Focus. Rookie Brian Johnson is the guy going forward this year after Wil Lutz announced that he'll be out for the rest of the year. The 2021 Saints kicker carousel has not been a fun ride, but thankfully Johnson passed his first audition with flying colors. We'll see what type of confidence Sean Payton has in Johnson on Sunday, as this game could come down to a simple field goal.
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