The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) will head to New Orleans to take on the Saints (12-4) and the football world will et round three of Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees. With this (likely) being the final season for Brees, it will be the final time he and Brady square off against each other, a rivalry that dates back over 20 years.
The Saints have dominated the Bucs twice this season. In Week One, Brady was 23-of-36 for 239 yards with two touchdowns, and two interceptions in the loss. Brees, however, was 18-of-30 for 160 yards and two touchdowns in the 34-23 win. The second time these two teams faced each other came in week nine with the Saints dominating en route to a 38-3 victory. Brees was 26-for-32 for 222 yards and four touchdowns while Brady struggled, completing just 22-of-38 for 209 yards and three interceptions.
The Buccaneers Can Silence The Doubters With A Win
This game means more for the Buccaneers than Tom Brady himself. Brady is already the greatest quarterback of all time. He claimed that after winning his fifth Super Bowl over the Atlanta Falcons. His legacy is firmly cemented. Regardless of the outcome of this game Sunday, it’s all gravy for him. If they lose Brady is still the GOAT, if they win it’s just another win in his historic Hall Of Fame career. However, if the Buccaneers no-show as a team, it will be hard not to consider their season a failure. A loss is one thing, going out with a whimper is another. You don’t add Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Antonio Brown to an already talented roster and be satisfied with just an appearance in the Divisional Round.
Fournette, Godwin In The Spotlight Again
The way the Bucs beat the Saints on Sunday is capitalizing on good rushing opportunities. Leonard Fournette, who was strong in the wild card win over Washington, could be called upon again in this game with Ronald Jones health in question. Against Washington, Fournette had 93 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Most importantly, he also caught all four passes thrown in his direction for 39 additional yards. With the help of the offensive line and tight end Rob Gronkowski, Fournette found plenty of open space against the Football Team. This will need to happen again against the formidable Saints front seven.
In the passing game, the Saints are going to be ready to do what every team does and try to get Brady off-center. This means the ball will need to get out wuickly to help offset the Saints pass rush. The aforementioned Fournette will play a big role in that, as will Chris Godwin. Godwin, despite having a strong game overall, is coming off his worst game in terms of drops. He was credited with four. The Bucs can not afford to miss opportunities as they did and expect to beat the Saints. Godwin knows that and will likely never repeat that performance again. Look for him to get plenty of targets against the Saints.
Round Three: It’s Hard To Beat A Team Three Times In A Season
On the defensive side, it’s all about getting to Drew Brees and forcing him to make critical mistakes. Ndamukong Suh and the Bucs defensive line will have to slow down Saints running back Alvin Kamara from gaining ground on Sunday night. Certainly, easier said than done. However, if done effectively, It will force Brees to rely more on the passing game and, perhaps, big plays downfield which have not been their strength this season. A healthy Michael Thomas will help and make things more difficult for the Bucs secondary and their linebacking group which will get some reinforcements with the return of Devin White. White missed the wild card game on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He finished the season second-most sacks for the Bucs behind only Jason Pierre-Paul with nine. He, along with linebacker Lavonte David, should help bring the pass rush they need to get to Brees.