The third and final leg of the Saints October road trip is upon us. This morning, the Saints woke up (or "rose and grinded") in Tampa, Florida (or maybe just somewhere within the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes just over 4 million residents).
You can go here to read more about the area. I'm going to make the jump to bring you the Hot Reads you've been waiting for.
** Join me there for our Sunday Morning Pre-Pre-Game Chatter (which is even more "pre-" than it's ever been since the game doesn't kickoff until 3:00 CST). **
This is about to be the last time I focus on the need to PROTECT BREES. I've almost resigned myself to the fact that two sacks of Brees per game might be what the new normal is, so I'd better start getting used to it, and not expect any better.
What I'd like to see: The same thing I always want to see, a sack- and pressure-free game by the Saints o-line.
Checkdown # 1
This time it's something that coaches probably shake their heads about in post-game meetings and film sessions: PENALTIES, PENALTIES, PENALTIES.
Last week, we watched as Roman Harper late-hit and brought the wood on a cheap shot to Steve Smith. I'm not really interested in rehashing the discussion about it. We also watched as there were two roughing the quarterback calls against the Saints on third downs that sustained Panter drives. You can cry all you want about how we got screwed by the ref on one of them, but the fact remains that it was called, and it kept a drive alive. These plays both upset my delicate stomach and drove me MAD.
Well, Tampa Bay is actually worse at this than the Saints. The Buccaneers are second in the league in penalties: 44 for 360 yards (vs. the Saints with 29 for 214 yards). That's almost nine Buc penalties per game, (very Capt. Fear-ful).
Further, from this article from the St. Petersburg Times that I linked to in yesterday's Fleur-De-Links, you can see for yourself how the author feels the penalties have been particularly damaging to the Buccaneers. Two examples from the text of the article: in last week's game, the Bucs had a false start that turned a 3rd and 2 into a 3rd and 7, and then they failed to convert it, and the 48-3 rout was on, and the other one is that Arrelious Benn has had two touchdown-negating penalties, all by himself.
What I'd like to see: The Saints have less penalties overall and less impactful penalties than Tampa Bay, providing a distinct advantage in the win.
Checkdown # 2
Both the Saints and Bucs are on the short side of the turnover differential: Saints -3 and Buccaneers -1. So, I'm saying right here that the winner of this game will be the team that can TAKE IT AWAY without giving it away.
Here's how the Saints got to that negative number: two lost fumbles, and five INTs add up to seven giveaways. On the other side, they have recovered only one fumble and snagged three interceptions. I don't think Drew's going to be able to stop throwing INTs (haven't you heard about his decline?) so it's time to hawk more balls, boys!!!
Tampa Bay has coughed up two fumbles and chucked six INTs for eight total giveaways. They have scooped up and/or fallen on five fumbles and recorded two INTs.
What I'd like to see: The Saints play a giveaway-free game while taking the ball away three times from Tampa Bay, and subsequently getting a minimum of 17 points off those takeaways. While helping in the victory, it will also get them to even-steven for the season.
Another important factor of this game will be how well these teams do at SEEING RED.
Red zone conversion is a big deal to all teams, but I'm going to get a bit beyond the simple red zone conversion percentages and say that the team with more red zone TDs will win.
Here's why: The New Orleans Saints are 4-0 when they score more red zone touchdowns than their opponent, and 0-1 when they score less red zone touchdowns than their opponent. Tampa Bay are 2-1 in games in which they tie or exceed their opponent in number of red zone touchdowns, and 1-1 when they lose this statistical category.
If you're dying to know how this played out game-by-game, just say the word and I'll drop those statistical nuggets into the comment section for you.
What I'd like to see: A 100% red zone TD percentage for the Saints on at least five trips inside the 20. And then an "oh-fer" for Tampa Bay.
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That's all I've got for this week, now let me know what you think about them...