The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play the New Orleans Saints for the 3rd time this season as they travel to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this Sunday. Here’s what to watch for from the NFC South Divisional Round matchup.
Bucs O-Line vs. Saints D-Line
At first glance you may think the thing to watch for the most would be any of the offensive superstars in this game. There'll be loads of offensive firepower from both sides including Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas of the Saints and Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski of the Bucs. However, the key matchup to watch for on Sunday evening will take place in the trenches. In two games this season, the Saints were able to get after Brady. He was sacked a combined six times and had five INTs while only throwing two TDs in both matchups.
There's no doubt New Orleans’ pass rush was a big reason why the Saints were able to have great success against Brady and the Bucs. It could be even better this week as they get back starting DE Trey Hendrickson. Hendrickson, who missed last week’s wild card matchup against the Chicago Bears with a neck injury, is having a breakout season as he’s tied for 2nd in the NFL with a team-high 13.5 sacks. What’s more notable is that three of those sacks came in weeks one and nine against Brady. It also doesn’t help that Bucs will go with either veteran Earl Wotford or Aaron Stinnie at RG after starter Alex Cappa, who started every game this season, fractured his ankle in last week’s game against the Washington Football Team. In order for the Bucs to make its first conference championship appearance since 2002, they must be able to keep Brady upright against a ferocious Saints defensive front.
Bucs WRs’ vs. Saints secondary
There’s no denying the talent the Buccaneers WR trio have. WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are still in the prime of their careers while WR Antonio Brown's role in the offense continues to grow week-to-week including a season-high 11 catches for 138 yards and two TD's in the regular season finale against the Atlanta Falcons. The trio also combined for 13 catches, 247 yards and two TD's in last week’s wild card win against Washington.
However lining up across from them are no slouches either in the Saints secondary. Even though CB Patrick Robinson has already been ruled out with a hamstring injury, star CB Marshon Lattimore has a good history of shutting down Mike Evans and plus a ton of veteran presence in that room with CB Janoris Jenkins and safety Malcolm Jenkins. They’ve also had great success when they played them this year as the star-studded Bucs WRs were each held to under 80 yards receiving and a combined one TD in both matchups this season. If the Saints want to advance to the conference championship for the second time in three years, they must contain the Bucs talented WRs yet again which is no easy task.