As the New Orleans Saints (+5.5) gear up for a huge game against the rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-5.5), a key matchup to look out for will be that of the Buccaneer pass rush against the Saints offensive line.
The Saints are currently 5.5 point underdogs to the Bucs, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, and one of the biggest reasons why is Tampa’s ability to make things hard on opposing quarterbacks with pass rushers like Shaquil Barrett and Vita Vea.
According to PFF, Barrett’s six sacks are tied for the seventh-most among qualifying edge rushers in the league this year, while his 35 QB pressures are tied for fifth-most. Vita Vea has 15 QB pressures, two sacks and a 77.2 PFF pass rush grade, which ranks 11th among qualifying DTs.
This is not to mention other contributors like rookie stud Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Ndamukong Suh, William Gholston and more.
Even their linebackers can get to the QB consistently. Rushing the passer is perhaps Devin White’s best skill, as his 17 pressures forced this year are the second-most among LBs.
The Saints, on the other hand, have a stout offensive line now that starting left tackle Terron Armstead and starting center Erik McCoy are back and healthy.
While Cesar Ruiz and Calvin Throckmorton are two young and improving prospects looking to man the two guard positions, the tackle and center spots are about as steady as you could hope for.
While he’s allowed a bit more pressures than usual so far this year (19), Ryan Ramczyk has been one of the most reliable tackles in the league in pass protection over his career. He’s never posted a season pass blocking grade of under 75.7 and has never allowed more than 25 pressures in a season, while blocking at least 550 passing snaps in all four seasons.
Armstead has had his health issues, but when healthy he hasn’t had a season pass block grade under 83.2 since 2014. And he’s only had one season with more than 20 pressures given up since then.
McCoy didn’t allow a single pressure in 48 pass blocking snaps against Seattle, and hasn’t allowed more than 15 in either of his last two seasons.
Throckmorton has seen limited playing time, but actually has been an upgrade to the injured Andrus Peat so far when he’s played — allowing one pressure, no sacks and posting an 84.4 pass block grade in 36 pass blocking snaps vs. the Seahawks.
Even Ruiz, who — along with Peat — has been a weaker link on the line, has seen his pass block grade jump from 42.3 last year to 56.4 so far this year (60 is considered average). He’s allowed nine pressures so far this season.
This should be a strength-on-strength matchup for both teams, and could very well be key in deciding the outcome of the contest.
Protecting Jameis Winston will be of the utmost importance for the Saints, as he is at his best when he’s kept clean in the pocket. And pressuring Winston is a high priority for the Bucs, as they are severely lacking in the secondary due to injuries.
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