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Buccaneers vs. Saints preview: Defense is where it's at

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the New Orleans Saints today, so let's take a look at the statistical matchup.

Saints Defense

Bucs NO
Off Pass      (yds/g) Off Rush   (yds/g) PF         (ppg) Def Pass      (yds/g) Def Rush   (yds/g) PA         (ppga)
Rank 13th 17th 16th 31st 11th 27th
Yds/g 257.3 104.9 23.1 276.8 97.9 27.9
Diff (Def - Off)
Pass Rush PA
yards yards points
19.5 -7 4.8

New Orleans' defense is similarly ranked to San Diego's defense, except the Saints defense is worse in all three defensive categories. When the Bucs faced San Diego, the Bolts ranked 26th in pass defense (271.3 yards), 6th in rush defense (89.8 yards), and 26th in points allowed (26.5 points).

Unfortunately, the Bucs' offense took a big hit this past game. WR Cecil Shorts was placed on IR and slot WR Adam Humphries is in the concussion protocol. Blocking TE Luke Stocker and starting RT Demar Dotson will also miss the game.

Coach Koetter will need to become very creative with this offense. On the bright side, the Bucs will have a lot of options at the running back position with Charles Sims returning to a line up with Doug Martin, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Peyton Barber.

The Bucs should throw the ball against the Saints' defense, but they will keep true to their safety blanket of running the ball, especially since it is the only skill position not lacking in depth.

Saint coming in hot:  WLB Dannell Ellerbe has produced a sack in the past four games.

Bucs' Defense

NO Bucs
Off Pass      (yds/g) Off Rush   (yds/g) PF         (ppg) Def Pass      (yds/g) Def Rush   (yds/g) PA         (ppga)
Rank 1st 12th 2nd 15th 25th 19th
Yds/g 319.4 109.3 28.9 249.9 116.1 23.8
Diff (Def - Off)
Pass Rush PA
yards yards points
-69.5 6.8 -5.1

Flashback to the Seattle game, the Seahawks were on a three game explosive streak that included taking down New England at New England! The news prior to the game was that the Seahawks' starting center would not start and they had a few rookies being forced to start due to injuries.

The Saints' offense may be missing their starting center Unger, starting left tackle Armstead, and leading running back Ingram. If the reports remain true come game time, then we may see another game dominated by the Bucs' defense.

Only until recently have the NFL world and many Bucs fan started to believe in the Bucs, attributing the start of things turning around after game 8, the Atlanta Annihilation. Yet, as shown in the chart below, the defense already made its transition of improvement at the Carolina game.

Bucs' Offensive Opponents
Scoring to Results
Game Rank Team PPG Game Scored Bucs Result
5 12th Car 24.4 14 Win
6 22nd SF 20.8 17 Blowout Win
7 5th Oak 27.2 24 (30 - OT) OT Loss
8 1st Atl 32 43 Blowout Loss
9 31st Chi 15.7 10 Blowout Win
10 17th KC 22.8 17 Close Win
11 20th Sea 21.9 5 Win
12 4th SD 28.5 21 Win

Conclusion

If the New Orleans Saints will be missing their starting center and left tackle, then you can expect the Bucs' defensive line to be dominant, containing Drew Brees like Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. And if Mark Ingram will not be available, then that would make the Saints completely one dimensional. The Bucs could use this game to get healthy on offense while the defense continues to be dominant at the Saints' offensive line injuries.