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Bucs locker room meltdown a good thing for Saints ahead of Week 17 rematch

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The Bucs are in turmoil, and the Saints can be the final dagger that ends their season and sends them spiraling out of control.

The Bucs haven’t eaten very many W’s this year, and the frustration is starting to mount as the team appears on the verge of collapsing to close the season.

You’ve got rumors that Jon Gruden wants back into coaching, and his preferred destination would be Tampa. Word is he’s already started calling old coaching buddies to get the squad back together like he’s gearing up to hop on the latest Call of Duty.

"Of course," Koetter said when asked if rumors have been a distraction. "It's your life, it's your life. It's what you do. So just flip it around. Of course it is. But we all as players and coaches, we're paid to do a job, and you try to do it to the best of our ability. That's all you can do."

Well jeez sir!

That doesn’t say much about the prospects of your coaching future in Tampa beyond next week.

Neither does the latest facsimile snafu involving Jameis Winston and Chris Baker.

Apparently Baker was a little too Aaron Brooks with his demeanor after an untimely penalty (that ultimately cost them the game), and multiple players including Winston took offense. Words were exchanged and an argument took place that was heated enough to take a few players to calm down.

Infighting at this point of the season is a bad look.

Which in truth shouldn’t deter you from missing the fact that over the last 3 weeks Jameis Winston has played well and they are still losing.

Meanwhile...

If you direct your attention across the way to New Orleans, then you’ll probably be made aware that the biggest issue facing the Saints right now is making sure their star rookie CB doesn’t follow up last week’s sub par showing (despite the rookie of the week nomination) with another one.

In fact, the Saints are still a team in search of that perfect game that’s eluded them this entire season. It’s still out there waiting to be discovered. And if the Saints play to the identity a weakened Bucs team, it could be enough to see that to fruition.

Let’s take a look at this week’s Keys to Success!

Capitalize on Mistakes

Winston puts the ball on the turf. The defense just has to be alert on every play that it could happen and then take advantage. Even in his good games, he’ll fumble the ball multiple times or force a throw into double or triple coverage. It’s in his DNA to make meh decisions somewhere in his game at random moments, and I expect things to be no different on Sunday.

Cameron Jordan vs. Bucs O-line

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

If Jordan can get one sack and one interception, he’ll have season highs in every statistical category, per NFL.com. It’s possible he could do it, as the Bucs offensive line is one of the reasons why Winston is all over the place. They’ve allowed 96 QB hits, good for 9th most in the league. In their previous matchup, Jordan was good for three hits. And from a fantasy perspective, it was his 3rd most productive game of the season.

Lattimore Island - The Return

Scott Clause-USA TODAY Sports

A colleague noted that Marshon Lattimore has had funny footing in the Dome the last few weeks. Not sure what’s up with that (or if it’s applicable), but if there is something to it perhaps he has a better game on a different turf and finishes out the regular season strong in a rematch against Mike Evans. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail this time around and fans can enjoy one of the better DB/WR matchups you’ll see this weekend!

Players to Watch - Michael Thomas, WR & Drew Brees, QB

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Thomas has 5 TDs, putting him three off last years total. Meanwhile, Drew Brees has only thrown 3 TDs in one game this year (Panthers), leading to Sean Payton to be asked about Brees’ production on the season. The Buc stops here, however, as Tampa Bay hasn’t faced a murderous row of QBs, and are ranked middle of the pack. However, Brees is the upper echelon and will be the best one they’ve faced all season.

On the flip side, they’ve given up 16 TDs on the year to WRs, which is good for 6th most in the league. The 2,746 yards given up to WRs is tops in the league. Their pass defense is primed for exploitation, and I expect Brees to get 3 or more TDs along with Thomas getting his first multi-TD game of the season (preferably three)!

Random Thought I: Since the Bucs lack a pass rush (32nd in the league in sacks), I’d have to assume this would be a good week to sit Terron Armstead, if necessary. It’ll give him a chance to get as much treatment leading up to next week’s game, as he and a fully healthy offensive line are integral to a deep playoff run for the Saints.

Random Thought II: Saints took another hit on Thursday with Hau’oli Kikaha being put on IR and them claiming Kasim Edebali to fill his roster spot. They are pretty much down to Michael Mauti playing snaps at SAM, and you don’t want him playing very many there. This precarious situation points to heavier nickel usage for the remainder of the season and possibly more 5-man D-line fronts with 6 DBs on the field.

Who Dat - Two Dat, as the Saints march toward their first playoff appearance since 2013 and their first division crown since 2011. I’ve held steady that the best team in the NFC would come from the best division, and I still believe the NFC South is said division. Saints can get the playoff party started early for the fans by beating the Bucs and before hosting whichever team makes it to the Dome in the Wild Card round! Please enjoy the remainder of your year folks, and myself and Rev will see you following the game on Sunday to recap another Saints win.

Peace, Love, and Strobe lights!