When New Orleans is throwing: They will create match-ups but I think Tanard Jackson is going to bait Drew Brees into at least one INT. The Buccaneers headed into the off-season feeling their biggest weaknesses were their defensive line’s inability to stop the run and their inability to pressure quarterbacks. Five weeks in, those problems from last season are still present. Tampa Bay is 23rd in rushing yards allowed. Edge: New Orleans, slightly.
When New Orleans is running: The Saints are one of the most creative teams on offense and have a vast arsenal of running backs with which to attack you with. Mark Ingram is the time-killer and averages 3.4 ypc, while Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas are averaging 7.1 and 4.5 each. All of them will have enough success today to win. Edge: New Orleans.
When Tampa Bay is running: Earnest Graham is a monster. I expect an inspiring effort from a back ready to prove something. Edge: Tampa Bay.
When Tampa Bay is throwing: This is a shame, because there are match-ups to be had. I’m just sick of picking Tampa Bay to have a great day through the air and being wrong. Josh Freeman’s regression is puzzling but mostly caused by the lack of help the play-calling and no. 2 through no. 5 receivers give him. I still think they should have gotten a receiver in his prime or twilight rather than continuing to develop most of their wideouts on the fly. Edge: even.
PREDICTION: The Falcons, Giants, and Bucs – all Wild Card contenders – all have “must-win”s at home. I’m predicting wins for the Falcons and Giants but I expect only the pass defense of the Bucs to show up enough to make a difference. The rest of the team will play hard but even Mike Williams – who will get open – is relying on someone I don’t expect to show up, Josh Freeman. Here’s hoping they prove me wrong, but I just think the Saints are the better team with the better play-calling. Saints 21, Buccaneers 20.