The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the New Orleans Saints today, for the second time in three weeks, so we talked to Christopher Dunnels of Canal Street Chronicles about the game. Here’s the Q&A!
1) Since the last time our two teams faced each other, the Bucs picked up a loss and the Saints a win. Has the Saints' outlook changed? How did the Saints go from scoring 11 points against the Bucs to scoring 48 against the Arizona Cardinals?
Maybe some Saints fan are now holding out hope for a miracle of making the postseason. To me, nothing has changed. The Saints are not a very good team right now, and they need to focus on being the best team they can be next year for what will surely be one of Drew Brees's few good years he might have left. Drew has shown when he's on, he's on. He might not have been incredibly efficient last week against Arizona, but he piled up the yards, got a few passing TDs, and avoided interceptions. If a game gets away from him (or if an opposing team is able to consistently put pressure in his face like in the last matchup against Tampa Bay), he can make poor decisions, force the ball, and create costly turnovers.
2) I was surprised the Saints defense managed to stop the Bucs, but then they turned around and gave up 41 points last week. Which defense are we likely to see this Saturday?
After already losing S Kenny Vaccaro (arguably the Saints best defense player not named Cam Jordan) to suspension, the absence of CB Delvin Breaux due to injury hurt even more last week. If Breaux is able to play, hopefully Tampa Bay won't be able to move the ball in the air quite as easily as Carson Palmer a week ago. With a secondary that includes more kids than vets, it's common to see confusion, missed assignments, and blown coverage on defense. Breaux's presence would definitely help ease some of those issues.
3) Which Saints player who was mostly invisible last time will have a big impact on this game?
Rookie WR Michael Thomas missed the last meeting between the two teams, so that would be the obvious answer. But if you're looking for someone who was only *mostly* invisible (as opposed to completely invisible in Thomas's case), then the answer would be RB Mark Ingram. Ingram had only 14 rushing yards in the teams' last contest, and he was visibly upset about not getting the chance to punch the ball into the endzone last week against the Cardinals. When WR Brandin Cooks voiced a displeasure with a lack of touches in the Saints blowout win over Los Angeles, you could almost see a conscious effort to get the ball to Brandin in the weeks following. Likewise, I expect Mark Ingram to have a big game on Christmas Eve.
4) Since we're close to the offseason, which positions will the Saints target for improvement next year?
The Saints have a lot of goals this offseason. First and foremost they need to make improvements to the offensive line at Guard and at Tackle. Then they need to re-sign DT Nick Fairley. They need to find someone to pair opposite Cam Jordan to rush the QB (although LB Hau'oli Kikaha missed the entirety of 2016 and was thought to be transitioning to defensive end). They need to find stability in the linebacking corps as Craig Robertson and Nate Stupar might not be the best long-term options. And it would be nice to find another cover corner, but like with defensive end, that position might be covered with players returning in 2017 from injury.
5) Can you give us a prediction for this game?
I don't expect another defensive showdown like last time. That being said, I think Tampa Bay has more to play for this game and is able to win in a high-scoring affair. 38-35 Tampa Bay.