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Key Matchup of the Week: Tom Brady vs. Saints Pass Rush

Cam Jordan, please hurry back.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

As the New Orleans Saints prepare for a rematch with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, one matchup to keep an eye on will be Tom Brady and the Saints defensive line.

The Saints are currently 10-point underdogs to the Bucs, according to DraftKings sportsbook and Brady is a big reason why.

The man who many believe is the greatest to ever do it is having another strong year at 44 years old, leading the league in passing yards (4,134) and touchdowns (36). His 91.5 PFF grade also leads all QBs.

One of the biggest reasons he’s been able to have this success, other than having a stacked receiving corps, is how well he’s been protected by his offensive line. He leads the league in clean drop backs, with 465 – 63 more than the next highest.

On these clean drop backs, he’s been absolutely money.

It seems like the only way to really make he and that Bucs offense sputter is to get pressure on him, but it just rarely happens.

On drop backs where he’s pressured, his pristine passing grade drops to 59.1 and his completion rate to 46.3%. His 5.8 yards per attempt when pressured is tied for 24th out of 39 QBs.

This is to say that if the Saints want to have any chance at all to win this game, the defensive line is going to have to get good pressure on Brady for most of the game.

The bad news is that they haven’t been great at doing that all year. While the Saints defense is Tied for 18th in the NFL with 28 team sacks, they’re also last in ESPN pass rush win rate (32%) and second-to-last in PFF team pass rush grade (63.4).

The good news, however, is that the absence of Marcus Davenport is probably the reason for a lot of that and he’s back. When he’s played, he’s been really good – racking up 25 pressures and five sacks on just 173 pass rush snaps this year.

And while Cam Jordan hasn’t been quite as efficient as Davenport (36 pressures on 413 pass rush snaps), he could possibly be back from a COVID absence, which would be a boost in that area as well.

With the presence of David Onyemata and Carl Granderson, as well as Demario Davis blitzing from the linebacker position, the front seven should be able to make things tough on Brady on Sunday.

The Saints’ coverage unit is one of the league’s best and I have little doubt they’ll show up and perform. But they need the D line to speed up TB12’s process and force some turnovers for Taysom Hill and the offense to be able to make some things happen on short fields.

It’ll be a tough game, but if the pass rush is as effective as it has been in the past three regular season games against the Bucs, NOLA has a shot in this game.


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