The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sit only a game out of first place in their division, and have a rival from the NFC South on the schedule this week as they visit the New Orleans Saints. This game seems like it will have to be a shootout if the Bucs hope to win, as both offenses seem to be in better form than their opposing defense.
So how do the Bucs match the Saints point-for-point in the Superdome? Here are three key matchups that could help get the job done.
Mike Glennon versus the pass rush
One of Mike Glennon's biggest weaknesses last year, but an area he has since shown signs of improvement, was handling the pass rush and making decisions while under pressure. In a game where he's likely going to have to throw 40-50 times for the Bucs to compete, that gives him lots of opportunities to be put under the gun by the defense.
The Saints don't exactly flourish as a pass rushing team, but they do have Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan, who are capable of getting after opposing quarterbacks. Glennon must stand tall, keep his eyes downfield, and step into throws against these rushers if the Bucs want to stand a chance against the Saints.
Louis Murphy versus Corey White and Patrick Robinson
Louis Murphy wasn't valuable enough to the Buccaneers to make the roster out of training camp while nursing a back injury, but once the team realized that Chris Owusu and Robert Herron weren't going to cut it as depth receivers, Murphy got his second chance.
The veteran receiver arrived just in time, too, as Mike Evans pulled up with a groin injury during last week's game. The former Gator Murphy stepped right in, seeing 11 targets from Mike Glennon (a continuation of their preseason chemistry).
Murphy will get the easier matchups against the Saints, as Keenan Lewis is likely to wind up across from Vincent Jackson more often than not. And since Glennon is comfortable with Murphy, his ability to get separation and make catches against these defensive backs will be key in establishing the passing attack for Tampa Bay.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins versus Kenny Vaccaro
Jairus Byrd was injured in practice this week, putting even more pressure on young Kenny Vaccaro in the defensive backfield for the Saints. So far this season, Pro Football Focus grades Vaccaro as the worst defender for the Saints, and the worst safety in the NFL.
That means Austin Seferian-Jenkins could have a big day getting up the seam or finding space over the middle against a safety unit now lacking in talent. The rookie from Washington may see a good amount of looks from Glennon, who would lean on Tim Wright last year when he needed a big catch. And since the Bucs will likely be airing it out often to keep up with the Saints offense, expect all of the viable targets on offense to be involved. It's up to ASJ to perform well in what could be a breakout game for the athletic tight end.