1. Before the season, we heard from Saints supporters that the loss of Sean Payton wouldn't matter much and that the Saints should still be a contender in the NFC South. Obviously, it hasn't been that way - at least to this point. Is the impact of Payton's absence more evident or do you believe the Saints would have gotten off to this start whether he was there or not?
I do think Payton’s absence has been more evident than I thought it would be, but he is not the only problem. In the first two games against the Redskins and the Panthers, the Saints got beat up and down the field. A coach is not going to change that. I do believe that they would have beaten both the Chiefs and the Packers if Payton was with the team though.
2. Drew is Drew, but for some reason the Saints running game - which used to be one of the better ones in the league - has fallen on hard times. Is that due to a lack of balance in the play calling on offense, the loss of Carl Nicks or something else?
I think that the running game has not been as good so far from a couple of things. First, I think that Drew is taking the reins of the offense a little bit more due to the absence of coach Payton. When you have a quarterback like Drew, you are obviously going to throw more anyways. I also think that there is a lack of balance in play calling because in three of their games (Redskins, Panthers, Packers), the Saints were behind the majority of the game and had to play catch-up by throwing the ball.
3. The Saints did a lot of work in the off-season trying to improve their defense - yet it seems even worse this year. What has gone wrong?
Yes, they have allowed a pretty large amount of yards, but that’s how the Saints defense has been since 2006. All they really try to do is make a couple of key stops and let the offense win the game. It might not be the best philosophy ever, but it has gotten them four playoff appearances and a Super Bowl title. Look for the Saints defense to play like they did against San Diego the rest of the season.
4. What New Orleans player on offense or defense may Bucs fans not be aware of but will be after Sunday's game?
It’s kind of hard to pick one particular player on the offense since they are all big weapons. If I were to pick one though, I might have to go with Chris Ivory. I have a feeling he is going to get some playing time this week. On defense, look for a big dose of defensive end, Martez Wilson. Will Smith will start serving his suspension this week, so Wilson’s playing time will increase.
5. Will the Saints continue their comeback with a win on the road against the Bucs? If so, why? If not, why not?
Yes, I believe the Saints will beat the Bucs and beat them handily. I think the bye week was perfect for the Saints to get a little rest and regroup after a tough opening stretch. The only players that might not play are David Hawthorne, Jonathan Vilma, and Jimmy Graham, which is an upgrade from missing quite a few more guys when they played against the Chargers. Look for the Saints’ offense to add a little bit more to the running game this week, and for the defense to step it up considerably. The Saints have had a tumultuous season so far, but I think the Saints are still a little too strong for the Bucs. Saints 38 Bucs 17
Thank you Travis for joining us. Be sure to read Canal Street Chronicles for the Saints perspective on this week's big matchup.