Dave Cariello: The Bucs just held a players only meeting. What is happening with this team?
Sander Philipse: They're the Jets? It's certainly starting to look like it's meltdown time, doesn't it? And we're only one week into the season, too. I think the issues aren't as bad or as big as they seem, and a few wins would calm down the circus that seems to have put down its tents in the Tampa Bay area. But those wins may be a little hard to come by with a very tough schedule this season, and an offense that malfunctioned in game one, things could spiral out of control.
Dave: This off-season the Bucs added a lot of talent defensively, in particular Darrelle Revis. How is this defense shaping up?
Sander: It looked close to dominant against the New York Jets, aside from one fairly major issues: disastrous penalties, with Lavonte David's end-of-game shove highlighting the problem. Every Jets scoring drive featured a crucial Tampa Bay penalty giving them new life. If they can limit those penalties, though, this defense could be very, very good. Darrelle Revis in particular looked completely healthy against the Jets, although his snap count was still limited. Provided that they have more than three healthy cornerbacks, which may be a problem at this point.
Dave: Tell me about a Tampa Bay player that Saints fans probably don't know about but might have an impact on the game this Sunday.
Sander: Erik Lorig (or Spencer Larsen) will have a big impact on Sunday. The Buccaneers could not run the ball against the New York Jets, and one part of that was the lack of a fullback. They tried to fill that hole a little with Brian Leonard and Nate Byham, but quickly abandoned the plan. Having Lorig back, or having a real fullback in Spencer Larsen fill in for him, could be a big boon for the Bucs.
Dave: How do you expect the Bucs to attack this stingy, hard-as-nails New Orleans defense?
Sander: They'll run the ball. That's the basis of the Tampa Bay defense, and now that they have a fullback again, they should be able to actually pull it off. Other than that, the Bucs will throw the ball deep, a lot. That's the other foundation of their offense, and that's what their personnel is made for. Unfortunately, they don't have much choice, either: there's no capable third receiver on the roster, nor do they have even slightly competent pass-catching tight ends. The one wrinkle you should watch for is Vincent Jackson moving to the slot to create favorable matchups, similar to what the Saints do with Marques Colston.
Dave: Any significant injuries to key Bucs players that Saints fans should know about?
Sander: Carl Nicks is still recovering from MRSA, but he's rejoined practice and is likely to play on Sunday. So is fullback Erik Lorig. The biggest injury to a player on the roster is to Tom Crabtree, who will miss a couple more weeks with a high ankle sprain. That leaves the team with no capable receiving tight ends. The cornerback situation is iffy, too, with three healthy cornerbacks on the roster right now, although I expect that to be remedied come Sunday.
Dave: Care to make a prediction?
Sander: I think the Saints pull off a close win in a defense-dominated game, 20-17. The Tampa Bay defense will harass Brees all game long, and Mark Ingram won't have any room to run -- but the Buccaneers offense wont be able to do much, either.