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Our offense vs their defense: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Saints offense came back down to Earth on Thursday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints are fresh off a 30-22 loss on Thursday night in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score. The Saints came out flat once again and dug themselves into a 27-7 hole entering the fourth quarter.

This week, the Saints take of NFC South rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game the Saints must win if they want any chance at making the playoffs.

The Bucs have a pretty stingy defense, ranking 13th in the NFL in points per game allowed (20.7), but have looked a bit vulnerable of late, giving up 20 and 25 points in 2 of their last 3 games.

The Saints offense found their footing against two of the NFL’s worst defenses in the Panthers and Giants before falling back down to earth against the Rams (they scored 22 points, but two touchdowns came in garbage time). When the Saints are down by 2+ touchdowns, their offense is up there with the best in the league, but once the game gets close, they resort back to mediocre play.

This week, the Saints have to play the toughest defense they’ve played, in terms of PPG allowed, since Atlanta five weeks ago. Will the Saints offense figure out a way to get back on track or will they come out slow and almost guarantee they miss the playoffs for the third straight season?

Well, if we look back to when these teams played in Week four, the Bucs whooped the Saints 26-9 in the Superdome. Derek Carr was one week removed from spraining his AC Joint in his throwing shoulder, but even with Carr fully healthy, I don’t see this Saints offense finding too much success on Sunday.

Tampa ranks 11th in the NFL, averaging 2.9 sacks per game. In their first meeting, Carr was sacked twice, but was pressured on 12 of his 37 drop backs. What’s so tricky about blocking this Bucs defense is that they have so many guys who can get after the quarterback. Vita Vea leads the team with 5.5 sacks this year, but they have eight guys with 3+ sacks this season. From edge rushers to defensive tackles to linebackers, they can all get after the quarterback, and we know the Saints offensive line has had their issues protecting Carr this year.

Even though the Bucs are a top-15 team in PPG allowed, they rank 31st in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game. With Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed healthy and the emergence of A.T. Perry, I’d expect the Saints to find success moving the ball through the air. Despite ranking 31st in passing yards allowed, the Bucs only allow 1.4 passing touchdowns per game. This is a very bend-but-don’t-break secondary, so I wouldn’t expect another three touchdown game from Carr in this one.

Where this defense is very stout is the run game. They allow 96 yards per game on the ground which ranks 9th in the entire league. The Saints have been terrible rushing the football, and that showed when they averaged 2.2 yards per carry against the Rams. The Saints have a bad offensive line and do absolutely nothing to get Alvin Kamara on the edge in the run game, so if their game plan is to spam halfback dive every time they run the ball, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are held to under 75 yards rushing.

We all know the Saints have been on a bit of a heater in the red zone lately. Over their last four games, the Saints are 10-11 in the red zone, but don’t let that fool you, this is not a good red zone offense. The Bucs are the fourth best team in the league at holding their opponents to field goals in the red zone. Their opponents score touchdowns in the red zone only 41.67% of the time. I expect the Saints to struggled mightily once they reach the red zone against this Bucs defense, just like they did when they went 0-2 in the red zone in week four.

If you couldn’t tell, I don’t think this Saints offense is going to find much success on Sunday. They fooled some of us into thinking they figured things out in their wins over the Panthers and Giants, but this is still the same Saints offense that has been underwhelming all season long.

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