Saints vs. Buccaneers Game Preview- Week 11

Aaron S. Miller

Saints @ Buccaneers Week 11 Preview  

In a Week 11 clash, the New Orleans Saints are off to Tampa Bay to play their third divisional game this season.  After a long, Brees-less stretch, the Saints are post-bye, coming off a brutal defeat at the claws of their rival the Atlanta Falcons, and looking to make a playoff push. This is the second and the final battle between the Saints and the Buccaneers, barring any late season and postseason shenanigans.

Back in Week 5, the Saints bested the Bucs at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome 31-24. The first-half saw the Saints heading into halftime with a one touchdown lead.  The two teams would trade touchdowns in each of the subsequent quarters.  Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had a fine game by throwing for 314 yards at a 76% clip, 4 touchdowns and an interception. The Saints could not get much going on the ground, though wide receiver Michael Thomas caught 11 passes (13 targets) for a monstrous 182 yards and 2 touchdowns.

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Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucs, following essentially the same formula as the Saints, similarly did not find heaps of success on the ground.   WR Chris Godwin had his own retort to Michael Thomas, by securing 7 receptions (9 targets) for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns.  A factor of note from the last meeting, Bucs stud WR Mike Evans posted the following stat line-0 receptions (3 targets) for 0 yards and, you guessed it, 0 scores.  Spoiler alert-Saints CB Marshon Lattimore game status is OUT of the Bucs contest.  Missing #23 in the secondary could potentially spell disastrous consequences for the Saints 5th ranked pass defense.

Notable differences between week 5 and week 11, heading into this Sunday for the Saints, are as follows: 

Drew Brees will be back for his third appearance since being sidelined from the thumb injury in the Saints-Rams Week 2 tilt.  Though Brees was underwhelming in the Saints week 10 drubbing, nothing seemed to work in favor of the Black and Gold all afternoon.  Brees’ last appearance against the Bucs was Week 14 in Tampa, where the quarterback posted a 90.9 passer rating and two turnovers, despite notching a 28-14 victory. Look for the Saints to get Brees going early and often as they face the Bucs' 30th ranked pass defense. 

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Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Starting left guard Andrus Peat will unfortunately miss around six weeks with a broken forearm.  LSU Alum Will Clapp will presumably fill in against the Bucs top-ranked run defense.  It will be crucial for the Saints offensive line which played, well, "offensively" last week-ceding 6 sacks to the usually hapless Atlanta Falcons.  Now they must stave off Ndamukong Suh and company in Tampa. 

Marshon Lattimore will be a scratch against what has been a “pick your poison” Bucs receiving group featuring Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O. J. Howard.  While slot corner Patrick Robinson has been practicing all week and looks to suit up this week, a heavy burden will fall on the Saints defense, especially Demario Davis unit and Eli Apple’s defensive backfield bunch.

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DT Sheldon Rankins is playing this time.  While he has yet to put up gaudy sack numbers as he did in 2018, Ranks remains a presence inside as a pass rusher.  The Saints defensive line remains among the league’s top units.  Elite pass rusher Cameron Jordan posted a sack in his last rendezvous with the Bucs, and 2 sacks the last time he made a trip to Tampa.  Expect Cam, David Onyemata, and Marcus Davenport to dictate the terms up front and make Jameis Winston eat an “L” this week.

Per the Football Database, the Saints are 34-21 all-time against the Bucs, and I predict an angry and embittered Brees to leave the Sunshine State at 8-2 on the season.  A two game divisional slide would put the Saints in a bind amid a highly competitive NFC class this season, and I just don’t see New Orleans dropping this one-on the road or otherwise. 

Final score? 34-21. Saints. 

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