The Tampa Bay Buccaneers must win in New Orleans and gain early momentum in the NFC South
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will sail west toward the French Quarters of New Orleans for battle on Sunday. They open the 2018 season with an early NFC South match-up versus the 2017 divisional champs, The New Orleans Saints. With an early road win in the division, the Bucs can gain early momentum to propel them to a much needed fast start.
The Saints are a heavy favorite to not only repeat as divisional champs, but to also win the entire conference. As for the Bucs, they are playing without their starting quarterback and won only one division game a season ago. That win however, came against Saints in week 17, which help the Bucs put some optimism on a tumultuous five and eleven season. If the Buccaneers really want to get off to a fast start, here are the pivotal match-ups that will decide the game.
Alvin Kamara Versus Bucs’ Front Seven
Alvin Kamara is a dynamic back entering his second as the reigning offensive rookie of the year for the Saints. He is coming off a rookie campaign where he racked up 1,554 yards from scrimmage and produced 13 touchdowns. That was some feat considering he played a complimentary role behind Mark Ingram. Due to Ingram being suspended the first four games of this season, Kamara has the opportunity to be their top offensive threat.
The Buccaneers have revamped their 23rd ranked run defense this off-season by bringing in defensive linemen that excelled in stopping the run. The Bucs’ front seven should hold up well and limit Kamara’s success running the football. The more challenging aspect of Kamara’s game that has to be contained? His his skills as a receiver. Out of his 1,554 yards from scrimmage, 826 came through the air. Buccaneers linebackers Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David and Adarius Taylor will definitely have their hands full, but are certainly capable.
Ryan Fitzpatrick versus Saints Secondary
Bucs quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick has to perform well against the vaunted Saints secondary. The Saints have a ball hawking defense that had 20 interceptions and excel in coverage on first downs. The battle between Mike Evans and Marshon Lattimore is box office and highly anticipated. Evans is arguably a top five receiver in the league. Lattimore is coming off of a pro bowl season in which he racked up five interception and 18 pass deflections.
However, Ryan Fitzpatrick can take advantage of other match-ups and use the Saints aggressiveness to produce big plays. In 2017, the Saints allowed 57 completions over 20 yards or more, which was the fifth most in the NFL. Everyone knows the Bucs need to establish the run game to get Fitzpatrick comfortable and to quiet down the hostile crowd. Look for Fitzpatrick to utilize Desean Jackson, O.J Howard and Chris Godwin on play actions or run-pass options. Godwin is coming off a career game against the Saints, where he had 145 yards and the game winning touchdown.
Affecting Drew Brees
Last but not least, the Bucs have to limit big plays from the future of Hall of Famer, Drew Brees. He has averaged about 280 yards and two touchdowns against the Bucs. But, his 26 interceptions against the Buccaneers are tied for the most against any team. The Buccaneers know Brees doesn’t mind slinging the ball around if they slow down the run. He will get his yards, and he’s going to get the ball to the Saints elite receiver, Michael Thomas. They must limit the big plays, play great redzone defense and create turnovers whenever possible.
Rod Thurman is a contributor for full press coverage covering his beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Follow him @BucBoy on twitter for everthing Bucs and anything football.