It’s finally football season! The Tampa Bay Buccaneers start off their season on the road against the New Orleans Saints in a NFC South showdown.
Date: September 9th, 2018
Time: 1pm EST
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
The Bucs and Saints have split their season series every season since 2015. Despite winning in the season finale in Tampa, the Bucs have struggled in New Orleans. Since 2010 the Bucs have gone 2-6 in the Big Easy, losing by an average of 11.6 points per game. So the line from MyBookie.ag makes a lot of sense based on their history.
Key Matchup: Marshon Lattimore vs. Mike Evans
The Saints won 30-10 last year in New Orleans, but the story was about the sparks that flied late in that game. During the third quarter, quarterback Jameis Winston pushed Marshon Lattimore in the back of the head after a play. Lattimore retaliated by shoving Winston before Mike Evans blindsided him, leading to more pushing and shoving between the teams. There were no ejections by Evans was suspended for the next game.
Mike Evans vs. Marshon Lattimore and the Saints in 2017 …
Outside of the scuffle, this is a matchup between two of the best young players in the NFL. Evans has already established himself as one of the best receivers in the league by going over 1,000 yards receiving each of his first four seasons.
Lattimore on the other hand was the Saint’s 11th overall pick in 2017 and showed off his ability to be a true lockdown corner. He finished his rookie season with five interceptions and 18 pass deflections while taking home the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. Even more impressive, Lattimore didn’t allow a single touchdown in 80 targets all year, according to Pro Football Focus.
If the Bucs expect to win, Evans will have to win his matchup against Lattimore, something he didn’t do at all last season. While the Bucs aren’t as reliant on Evans as much as they were in the past, he’s still their biggest threat and need him to play as such.
X-Factor: Defensive Front Seven
The Buccaneers put a lot of effort this offseason into improving their defensive line but their only part of this defense that needs to step up. The linebackers are going to have their hands full as well.
First, the Bucs need to get pressure on Drew Brees. He averaged 254 yards last season against the Bucs and was only sacked three times. If the defense gives Brees time in the pocket, he’ll absolutely pick apart this young secondary.
The d-line also needs to continue to slow down the Saints running game. Alvin Kamara is one of the most exciting young running backs in the NFL. He only managed 112 yards on the ground but that came on 19 carries. With Mark Ingram suspended, Kamara should see more carries and if he keeps up his 5.9 yards per carry average, it’ll spell disaster for Tampa.
One play the Bucs will have to work hard to stop on Sunday is the screen pass to Alvin Kamara, because the Saints are REALLY good at it. We broke it down in our new Signature Play series. https://t.co/Ii7Z3b3FLB
— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) September 7, 2018
Kamara is a dual-threat running back. He can carve up a team in the passing game, which is where the Bucs’ linebackers come into play. In the two matchups between the teams, Kamara was the Saint’s leading receiver with 168 yards. Lavonte David especially will have his work cut out for him. There were several plays in the preseason where it seemed David was chasing receivers in his zone, and running backs got the best of him too. If David and Kwon Alexander can’t slow down Kamara, it’s game over for the Bucs.
Prediction: Saints def. Buccaneers 27-20
I think the Bucs cover the spread but ultimately lose. A lot will be talked about with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting off the year but I think he’ll do just fine. He was 8 for 15 with 68 passing yards and a touchdown. He doesn’t have to be a star QB, just has to be a game manager and take care of the ball.
The defense got some bad news late this weeks, starting cornerback Brent Grimes is doubtful for Sunday. Grimes was expected to matchup with receiver Michael Thomas but now that duty goes to either Vernon Hargreaves or rookie Carlton Davis. That should scare Bucs’ fans deeply. With that being said, expect this potent Saints’ offense to really take over.
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