Buccaneers vs. Saints Preview

We’re all waiting to see what the Buccaneers Offense is going to look like. Will it feel like more of a Bruce Arians Offense or the system we saw in New England with Tom Brady for 2 decades? Even if Mike Evans doesn’t play (or does but is significantly compromised), the Buccaneers have the ability to create matchup issues with their assortment of tight ends. However, the Saints should be able to match up well given the pieces they have at safety in Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams.

On the other side of the ball, one thing is certain when facing a Todd Bowles Defense: You are going to see some blitzes. The Buccaneers were 2nd in the NFL in blitz percentage last season. They also finished 7th in sacks, 5th in takeaways, and are largely returning the same players. Tampa’s D got more and more comfortable as 2019 progressed, and I expect them to be the same aggressive unit with the ability to force offenses to make mistakes.

The problem for Tampa? The Saints can handle the blitz. Drew Brees led all quarterbacks in 2019 with a staggering 130.9 passer rating against blitzes, completing more than 70% of his passes for 12 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

The below play from Week 11 last season is this matchup in a nutshell. A blitz with man coverage behind it by the Buccaneers, and a man-beating route concept with great protection by the Saints.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass
Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

From the end zone angle, you can see that Brees had a nice clean pocket from which to throw. He set up quickly and got the ball out of his hands for an easy touchdown.

Even when the Buccaneers played zone against New Orleans the last time they met, they struggled to prevent the big play. Either the Saints were able to isolate matchups inside with Alvin Kamara and tight end Jared Cook, or Tampa failed to maintain the integrity of the coverage, leaving huge open windows for Brees to take advantage of.

The addition of Emmanuel Sanders will add another element to the Saints passing game that will make them even harder to defend. New Orleans should be able to stretch the field a little more, opening things up at the intermediate levels for Thomas, Cook, and Kamara.

Our Prediction: The Saints D will make just a few more plays than Tampa’s D, allowing New Orleans to pull this one out.

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