Believe it or not - Jameis Winston is the best QB the Saints have faced since Tom Brady. That includes Matthew Stafford, as Winston also has the advantage of throwing to a more talented cast of pass catchers.
So, What’s the Problem?
He’s a career 60% accurate QB that plays undisciplined and doesn’t take care of the ball. That’s been the story of his career and continues to be his biggest Achilles heel to date.
In the middle of Winston’s good tape, you can always find one bone-headed play that makes you question the existence of God. Tagging along behind questionable decision-making is his propensity to fumble, as he has 8 on the year. He’s lucked out with only 2 lost, but eventually the pendulum will swing the other direction.
Winston putting his team in difficult situations will be the story of this game, as the Saints look to get that first perfect/dominant game that Payton, Jordan, and Brees have alluded to in different capacities. Here are the Saints’ Keys to Success for Week 9 vs. TB.
Close the Cage on Muscle Hamster
The #1 thing the Saints will need to do is stop the Tampa Bay run game from getting on track in the Dome. Based on what I’ve seen, a lot of Winston’s best moments come off of play action and well-timed calls/play design by Dirk Koetter. What helps the Saints is that despite being ranked dead last in runs of 20+ Yards (9) allowed, they are facing a Bucs team that is ranked 26th in the league in 20+ Yard runs with only 2. This is a weakness versus weakness, but the Saints have the added advantage of it being at home and being a division opponent, so they should be dialed in to the scheme. If the Saints can swarm Doug Martin early and eliminate the big runs, it’ll take away the PA fake threat and muddy the down and distance water for Winston, making him force things.
Find a Rhythm on Offense
“The third down (conversion rate) is behind — poor, if you will,” coach Sean Payton said. “It was one of the points we talked about in the meeting today. I think that (it’s) certainly (not up) to our standard.”
That above image was back in September when the 3rd down conversion rate was 34.8%. It’s only improved by 4% since that point, and New Orleans is now sitting squarely at 38% to date (17th). There is sunshine on the way however, as they are facing a Bucs team that is allowing offenses to convert 49% of their 3rd downs - good for worst in the league. I also failed to mention that the Saints are also 17th in the league in Penalty Yards against (417 yards). No, the Saints offense hasn’t been bad, but believe me when I say they haven’t played up to their standard either and the stats mentioned above are reasons why. Division games usually breed hyper focused Sean Payton teams, and I think this is a game where they cut down on penalties and convert closer to half of their 3rd downs.
Big Play Day
The Buccaneers are giving up big plays in the passing (5 plays of 40+ yards) and running (6 plays of 20+ yards) game. Meanwhile, Drew Brees is coming off a 0 TD game and Mark Ingram is coming off a 2 fumble game. The Buccaneers are pretty much walking into a buzzsaw, as both will want to make amends for last week’s struggles. It also doesn’t hurt that the Bucs are allowing opposing QBs a 98.3 passer rating (28th) while giving up 7 rushing TDs, ranking them 26th in the league. I’m not saying we put up 40 points, but I’m not saying we don’t as Angry Mark will be making an appearance, and I like Brees’ ability to take advantage of a much maligned secondary. Play action should be open, as I expect this to be a “Bat Game” with the offense looking to provide some energy in the dome.
Player to Watch vs. Buccaneers: Marcus Williams, Safety
The rookie free safety has fallen behind some of his peers (Kamara, Lattimore, Ramczyk) from the 2017 draft class, but I still think there is a TON of developing left for him to do. Payton always talks about how confidence breeds success, and I don’t think Williams has had that “signature” game yet that lets him know he can play in this league. Tampa wants to push the ball down the field, but with Winston having a tendency for inaccuracy and overthrows I’m going to go on a limb and say this ends up being a big game for Williams as we see another member of what looks to be a historic draft class flash for the New Orleans Saints.
Random Thought I: Sheldon Rankins had his best game as a Saint last week. With pressure up the middle affecting Winston heavily I feel like he’ll be the catalyst for a number of turnovers.
Random Thought II: After playing mistake free ball for the first three weeks of the season, the Saints Offense has now had at least one turnover in their last three games. Time to balance out again!
Random Thought III: Getting Breaux, Snead, and Strief back involved will be better than any trade the Saints could have made before the deadline.
The Saints go into Week 9 facing a top 15 QB per stats on top of this being a division game. That’s enough to make this a much closer game than it should be and yet from my vantage point it appears as if this Tampa Bay team is regressing under Dirk Koetter. I like our matchups along the offensive and defensive line and see us winning this game in dominant fashion, as Winston has one of his worst games of the season. Drop your comments below and enjoy the exhibition on Sunday, then join Rev and myself for the live recap on the Who Dat Confessional right after the game.