New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, December 11th, 4:25 pm
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
- Offense on Same Page
The offense has been night and day throughout this season and will have to show up against a surprisingly tough Tampa Bay team. Drew Brees had one of his worst performances in the last couple of years a week ago and will have to be sharp on Sunday. Look for him to bounce back and get the ball to his speedsters on the outside, specifically Brandin Cooks or rookie Michael Thomas. Head coach Sean Payton has taken over as the primary play caller for the Saints to try and spark a recently struggling offense. Look for Payton to continue to try and take shots down the field as well as spring a big play through screens and misdirection.
- Consistency in the Trenches
The offensive line of the Saints has been a pleasant surprise in the film room this year and will need to continue to keep Brees upright against a pretty complete defensive line for Tampa Bay. The Saints failed to get into a rhythm last week against the Lions due to great zone coverage and well timed blitzes. In addition, the Saints failed to run the ball successfully and will be counted on to do so this week to ensure a balanced offense. The Saints are more than capable of playing “hold the ball” but the offensive line must show up to play on the road.
- Rushing the Ball
It is no secret that when the Saints find a balanced offensive attack and can rely on their running back duo to produce, the Saints are one of the best offenses in the league. Mark Ingram had a quiet day last week against Detroit and will have to find a way to produce a similar performance to that of two weeks ago. Tim Hightower is still a key part of New Orleans’ offense as well and will split carries in the backfield with Ingram. They will also be a key component of pass blocking and screens as Sean Payton loves to get his backs in space and involved in the game plan.
- Force the Ball out of Jameis’ Hands
Jameis Winston has had a great second half of the season but still has a lot to learn as an NFL quarterback. His touchdown to interception ratio still sits 2:1, and he can be counted on to make mistakes if there is constant pressure. The defensive line, especially Cameron Jordan, has been busy in recent weeks and will be relied on to get hands in the face of the second year quarterback. The Saints’ secondary is still young so Dennis Allen will hope his offense can ease the burden of covering Mike Evans and revitalized Vincent Jackson.
- Blitz Early and Often
With the addition to Dannell Ellerbe and Sheldon Rankins in the defensive lineup, the Saints have finally found a pulse when it comes to rushing the passer. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has done a good job of blitzing the quarterback and forcing them into bad decisions. Although Jameis Winston can be a running threat, he has yet to surpass even 30 rushing yards in a game this season which should not stir Allen’s game plan. Look for New Orleans to keep sending Dannell Ellerbe off the edge opposite of Cameron Jordan and hope their two elite edge rushers can get to the Winston. Expect the Saints to live and die by the blitz on the road and try to force turnovers for their offense.