The New Orleans Saints are now 4-8 as most of us know by now, after a 13-0 loss in their first shutout in nearly 2 decades. On the other side of this Monday Night Football matchup in Week 13, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sit at 5-6 and at the top of the division, for now, a half-game ahead of the Atlanta Falcons. With this said, we will take a look at how the Saints’ rushing offense and Buccaneers’ rushing defense have performed so far this season, and then go on to predict how these units will play against one another in their second matchup with each other this season. So, without further ado, let’s get right into it.
How have these two units performed so far?
Starting off with the Saints’ run game, they have really, and I mean REALLY struggled the last few weeks, both due to usage rate as well as efficiency. This is partially due to the injuries to Andrus Peat (who played but was not 100% it seemed) as well as Erik McCoy, which has made the interior offensive line much worse than it typically is. Alvin Kamara obviously had two crucial fumbles last week, and despite the offensive line issues, you still cannot overlook that at the end of the day, these were his fault. He now has 4 on the season, and the Saints as a team have 6, which is tied for the 5th most in the NFL so far on rushing downs. They rank 16th in rushing yards (1,358), T-15th in yards per carry (4.5), T-9th to last in rushing touchdowns (9), 15th to last in rushing first downs (73), and 14th to last in rushing first down success rate (24.3%).
On the other side of the ball, the Buccaneers have been very on-and-off with their rush defense. Losing Shaq Barrett to IR and KJ Britt to IR as well has depleted their linebacker core slightly, which has been the cause of some rush defense deficiencies as of late. They allowed Nick Chubb to have 116 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries last week, Darrell Henderson to have 56 yards on 12 carries 2 weeks before that (4.7 YPC), and D’Onta Foreman to rush for 118 yards on only 15 carries (7.9 YPC) in week 7. They have allowed the 14th most rushing yards (1,355) and are tied for the 11th highest yards per carry allowed (4.6) on the 14th least rushing attempts seen by a defense this season (292). However, they are tied for the 8th least rushing touchdowns allowed (7) and the 9th least rushing first downs allowed as well (65).
How will these units produce against one another?
Simply put, this will be a matchup of the men up front. Ryan Ramczyk, Cesar Ruiz, and Andrus Peat vs Akeim Hicks, Vita Vea, Devin White, and Lavonte David. The Buccaneers on paper, roster-wise and statistically, seem to have the upper hand in this particular department and should be able to get pressure on the backfield to force short gains on rushing downs.
We have no real indication this season of how the run game stacks up, as Alvin Kamara missed the week 2 matchup with his rib injury, but Mark Ingram did have 10 carries for 58 yards but also fumbled in that matchup as well. We will see how Kamara stacks up for this game, but after last week’s performance and the few weeks prior with the running schemes, it does not look good for this particular matchup.