This week, the New Orleans Saints will face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the second time this season in a game that has massive playoff implications for both teams. With a win, the Bucs can all but wrap up the NFC South while the Saints would need to win out and have the Bucs lose out to take the NFC South crown.
The Bucs began the season 3-1 before losing six of their next seven and basically falling out of the playoff picture, but some crucial losses by the Saints and Falcons and a four-game win streak for Tampa Bay has them in firm control of the division. This week, a red-hot Baker Mayfield leads his team against a Saints defense that has struggled in the backend of this season.
In a year with a ton of quarterback injuries and mediocre play from some of the top guys, Mayfield has quietly been one of the best quarterbacks in all of football this year. Through 15 games, Mayfield has thrown for 3,598 yards, 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Over his last three, Mayfield has totaled 808 yards and eight touchdowns to no interceptions.
Just last Thursday, the Saints watched as Matthew Stafford diced them up, completing 24 of his 34 attempts for 328 yards and two touchdowns. Outside of two good games against Tommy DeVito and Bryce Young, the Saints defense has really struggled against the likes of Jared Goff and Josh Dobbs.
On the outside, Mike Evans is putting up one of his best seasons at 30 years old. So far, he’s totaled 73 catches for 1,163 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Saints usually shut down Evans, but with Marshon Lattimore not back from injury yet and the rest of the secondary coming back down to Earth, the Mayfield to Evans duo might light up the stat sheet once again.
The Bucs also have Chris Godwin who’s been a little underrated this year. He only has one touchdown grab, but he’s 108 yards shy of another 1,000-yard season. Paulson Adebo, Alontae Taylor and Isaac Yiadom are going to have to bring their A game, because if not, it’s going to be a long day for this secondary.
On the ground the Bucs are led by Rachaad White who has been one of the best dual-threat backs in the league. He’s rushed for 873 yards and six touchdowns on a 3.6 average while also catching 56 balls for 507 yards and three touchdowns. The Saints have really struggled defending the run, giving up 126 yards per game and an average of 4.5 yards per carry this season. They need their big boys up front to step up because things could get really ugly if White gets going early on.
The Saints still rank in the bottom of the NFL in sacks per game, averaging just over two in every contest. On the flip side, the Bucs rank 11th in the NFL, giving up 2.3 sacks per game. The Saints were able to expose a bad Giants offensive line a couple weeks ago, finishing the game with seven sacks, but outside of that game, they’ve totaled just 24 sacks this season.
This is a nightmare matchup for the Saints with just two games left this season. They’re coming off a 30-22 loss to the Rams where they didn’t look good at all and now, they have to travel to Tampa Bay to play a very hot Bucs team.
With the Saints defense looking mediocre at best against good offenses this season, I don’t see them shutting down Mayfield and company. The Bucs offense should be able to score 20+ points in this one, and I don’t know if the Saints offense can keep up.