Tomorrow, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go into enemy territory for the first time in 2015. They’ll travel to the Superdome to take on New Orleans in an NFC South battle. The following two games are key to salvaging any momentum to start the season, but it begins against the Saints.
While their thrashing wasn’t as thorough, New Orleans also started the season 0-1 with a loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Both teams have something to prove, and can walk out with an extremely important divisional victory. Let’s see what they’ll bring to war tomorrow afternoon.
Weapons of Mass Destruction: Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Who Dat Nation
The offense begins and ends with Drew Brees. Plenty of fuss has been made about the losses of Jimmy Graham and others, but Brees is notorious for his ability to spread out targets. This was clear last week as he managed more than 350 yards with six different receivers getting five or more targets.
Last week Mark Ingram led the team in both rushing and receiving. After the Titans’ success running the ball against the Bucs, Ingram could be itching for production. This won’t be a ground and pound game, but Ingram remains a huge threat.
While it will be just as much a defensive force, the Who Dat Nation is still something I would classify as a weapon for the Saints. Jameis Winston will be in a hostile environment, and the crowd can easily make a difference here. Pay close attention to the impact both the noise and home field advantage play in this contest.
Bastions of Defense: Cameron Jordan, David Hawthorne, Rob Ryan
While the Saints defense is struggling with injuries, that doesn’t mean they’ll be without playmakers. Jameis Winston is still a rookie, and so are two of his offensive linemen. Cameron Jordan had the highest grade on the Saints defense, according to Pro Football Focus, and finished with two hurries, two batted passes, and the team’s only quarterback hit.
Jordan will be trying to gain pressure on Winston while also anchoring a defensive line that will try to contain the potential resurgence of Doug Martin. One of the very few bright spots last week was second-year tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and the Saints may rely on linebacker David Hawthorne to cover and contain the massive target.
Finally, the defense will rest upon the shoulders of Rob Ryan. Last week, the Buccaneers were thoroughly out-coached in all phases of the game. This was also clear in Dick Lebeau’s handling of the offense, and Ryan will need to do the same to be successful.
On paper, the Saints remain only a shell of the powerhouse they once were. Riddled with injuries, they’ve got plenty of problems. The weapons they bring to the table were barely bothersome to the disciplined Arizona Cardinals, but it could be more than enough against the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay won’t be underestimating anyone after last week, but this will be a fight New Orleans is eager to win. Watch for Sean Payton and Rob Ryan to try and outmatch Lovie Smith and Dirk Koetter just as Ken Whisenhunt and Dick Lebeau did one week ago. This could be a close one, but it’ll all come down to execution.