The Saints (5-2) march into Raymond James Stadium to take on the Bucs (6-2) in a battle for NFC South supremacy on Sunday Night Football. It's a rematch of Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady from Week 1, and certainly is a tale of two different teams from that game. Without question, there's a ton of things to pay attention to during this game, but here's a few things that might be really put under a microscope.
What to Watch For
Michael Thomas, is this the week? We've been on 'Can't Guard Mike' watch for weeks, but this feels like the game he comes back for. Thomas had been dealing with a Grade 1 hamstring injury, which sidelined him for two games after missing the previous contests due to a high ankle injury and team suspension. Aside the two back-to-back losses after losing him in Week 1, the Saints have got by. Couple that with potential returns of Emmanuel Sanders and Marquez Callaway, and the team's offense looks to be a real threat and test for a Bucs defense that has found their groove.
What Saints defense shows up? The Antonio Brown saga kicks off on Sunday night, as he's expected to play anywhere from 10-35 plays. All we've heard about is how lethal the Bucs offense is, and Brown is supposed to help put them over the edge. Of course, we'll need to monitor what happens with Chris Godwin (finger). Entering this week, the Bucs are averaging 368.4 yards/game on offense, ranking 14th in the league. At 30.9 points/game, they rank 4th in the NFL.
What to really pay attention in this chess match is what New Orleans does defensively on 3rd down. The Bucs have a 42.6 percent conversion on 3rd down this season, which ranks 17th in the NFL. The Saints have improved defensively over the past few weeks, even making some key stops when it matters most to help them win games. They'll be put to the test all week, and will have to put their best foot forward in almost every area to help knock off Brady in Round 2.
The Alvin Kamara show. It'll be the 8th time that Kamara faces off against the Bucs, coincidentally having the same record as the Saints when he's in the lineup at 5-2. Kamara hasn't rushed for 100 yards against the Bucs, and that doesn't look to change for this game. He had some success in the receiving department early in his career, having one 100-yard game (9/9/18), but since then has just cracked a high of 51 yards receiving in four games. New Orleans figures to have their weaponry back for this game, and Tampa Bay has done a good job making sure Kamara doesn't singlehandedly kill them. This could be one of those games for AK to make his presence felt.
Hidden yardage and discipline. Maybe it was because it was Week 1, but these two teams combined for 15 penalties for 222 yards. These two should play more disciplined this time around, but between the penalty and special teams yards, this could be a huge area that could help change how things play out in this game. You don't want officiating deciding a big game like this, and it'll be highly scrutinized as usual.