Noteworthy: This is the second NFC South division game for the New Orleans Saints, with the Black and Gold sporting a 1-0 mark in the division. New Orleans held off Carolina last week for a 30-27 win over the Panthers. This week’s game at Tampa marks the third straight game away from the dome for the Black and Gold.
Tampa is coming off one of their worst losses in club history, a 48-3 setback last week on the road against San Francisco. Tampa has done well against the Saints, going 5-3 in the last eight meetings.
Keys to the game:
Keep Jimmy in the loop! Saints second-year tight end Jimmy Graham is off to one hell of a start this season. Graham is going for his fourth straight 100-yard receiving game this week against the Bucs. Jimmy has hauled in 32 receptions for 396 yards and three TD’s this season. The rest of the NFL is beginning to learn how difficult a match-up problem Graham poses to his opponents. I fully expect Jimmy to once again have big numbers this week.
Run the ball and stop the run – Tampa is a wounded team now, both physically and emotionally. Tampa was plain and simply embarrassed last week in their 48-3 loss to the 49ers. They want to get back on the field and put that ugly performance behind them.
Tampa is also a team that is hurting right now. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is dealing with a high ankle sprain and may not play. The Bucs’ top rusher, running back LeGarrette Blount, is also going to be hard pressed to play against the Saints.
With that said, the Saints should go right at the heart of the Bucs defense and try and rush the ball. Pounding the ball would allow other things to open up for Drew Brees and the Saints passing game.
Put some heat on Freeman – Josh Freeman is a very good quarterback and he can beat you with his arm and his legs. Since 2009 Freeman is 3rd in the league among quarterbacks rushing the football. His passer rating (89.9) is 6th best among QB’s in the NFL since 2010.
The Saints need to make Freeman feel uncomfortable. The 49ers got good pressure on Freeman last week, forcing him into two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. When Freeman has time he has, and will, beat the Saints. Freeman is tops in the NFL in fourth-quarter comebacks since he has been in the league.
“That’s very impressive,” said Saints Coach Sean Payton. “There is a confidence that level that he has and his and his coaches and players know that he can and has led them to big wins.”
Consistent pressure on Freeman would bode well for the Saints Defense.
Win the turnover battle – The Saints enter this week’s game at Tampa -3 in the turnover margin, which ranks New Orleans tied for 23rd in the National Football League. If the Saints are going to get back to where they want to be (the Super Bowl!) simply put, they need to be on the plus side. Some of the best teams in the NFL today (Green Bay, Buffalo, Detroit, New England, San Francisco) are all excellent in taking the ball away. This would be a great week for the Saints to do some taking away from the Bucs.
New Orleans Saints (4-1) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2)
Sunday October 16th, 2011 Raymond James Stadium
3:15 Kickoff on WWL 870AM/FM 105.3 and online at WWL.com
Series Record: New Orleans leads the series 22-16