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Ups and downs from Saints vs. Buccaneers

New Orleans’ playoff hopes remain alive with a victory over Tampa Bay.

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Up: Playoff Hopes

The New Orleans Saints beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday to keep their playoff hopes alive. New Orleans will now have to rely on a win against the Atlanta Falcons and the 2-14 Carolina Panthers to beat the Buccaneers next week to ascend the Saints to #1 in the NFC South.

Derek Carr and the Saints’ offense has looked better in recent weeks and the defense looks like they have finally established a pass rush. If New Orleans can find a way to sneak into the playoffs, they may be able to do some damage, but the team’s lack of consistency would say otherwise.

The biggest takeaway from Sunday’s win would be getting a dominating win over a playoff contender.

Up: Juwan Johnson

Tight end Juwan Johnson had seven touchdown receptions in 2022 and was projected to do even better in the 2023 season. The addition of Derek Carr added to Johnson’s expectations as Carr used tight ends heavily with the Las Vegas Raiders. Through 16 weeks Johnson had only accumulated 26 receptions and 238 yards.

During the Saints' week 17 matchup with the Buccaneers, Johnson started the game off hot catching 3 passes and a touchdown during the offense’s opening drive. The wide-receiver-turned-tight-end finished the day with 8 receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown.

There have been many questions circling the way Johnson has been used this season, especially in the red zone, so a good outing against the Buccaneers was very much needed.

Downs: Finishing

The Saints were firing on all cylinders against the Buccaneers. The offense played well, the defense dominated, and the special teamers each had a good day in their own right. But when it came to putting the game away, the Saints' flaws started to leak out. The Buccaneers' final three drives ended in touchdown, fumble, touchdown respectively. The fumble on the second to last drive occurred when Buccaneers wide receiver Trey Palmer caught a deep 54-yard pass but would then lose his balance and fumble while falling to the ground allowing the Saints to recover, so lucky is an understatement.

The Saints have struggled all season to safely put games away such as their victories over the Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears. If New Orleans makes the playoffs and wants any type of success, learning to put games away earlier against lesser teams would be ideal.

Down: Health

Going into Sunday’s matchup, the Saints already knew they'd be without right tackle Ryan Ramczyk as they placed him on the Injured Reserve list just days before. Lineman Landon Young, who was Ramczyk’s replacement, went out early in the game and never returned. New Orleans also saw players such as RB Alvin Kamara, LB Nephi Sewell, and DE Tanoh Kpassagnon leave the game with injuries. Late into the season injuries are expected, but a Saints team already without superstar cornerback Marshon Lattimore and wide receiver Michael Thomas can't afford many more injuries while hoping to make a playoff run.

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