For all of the talk about Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the real star of the show in Tampa has been the defense. The Bucs defense has found a very good formula this season: An outstanding run defense and a passable pass defense.
The New Orleans Saints will have to get creative to move the ball against this defense. The Buccaneers are a completely different team than the Saints saw Week 1, and they’ve won six of their last seven. That has set the stage for a pivotal Week 8 showdown in primetime between Brady and Drew Brees.
If the Saints are to succeed, however, Brees can’t be the star of the show. He’s been restricted the past two practices with a shoulder injury, and the Buccaneers defense would love nothing more than to hone in on rushing the passer early on.
With that in mind, expect to see a game where the Saints go about 70-30 in favor of passing it. Historically, when Sean Payton faces an outstanding rushing defense, he likes to feed Alvin Kamara the ball in different ways than on the ground, often with short passes designed for him. Latavius Murray, on the other hand, will be used to keep the defense honest early.
For the Bucs, the key is in their linebackers. The loss of Vita Vea this season hasn’t caused them to miss a beat, thanks in no small part to the outstanding Lavonte David and Devin White. Add the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, William Gholston and Ndamukong Suh — who is enjoying a nice little resurgence in Tampa — and you’ve got an absolutely fearsome front seven.
The Saints are currently 14th in the league in rushing, but that’s not where Kamara does the most damage. He had five catches for 51 yards in Week 1, but only 16 yards on 12 carries. The Saints will undoubtedly try to remedy the latter number.
All things told, this matchup does not work in the Saints favor. The upside is that the offensive line appears to be healthy, with no one making an appearance on the injury report.
Expect to see a lot of misdirection, play action and general West Coast offense shenanigans in general on Sunday. Regardless of what you may think of the Bucs hype machine this year, the run defense is the big deal. Payton will need to be creative.
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