Fresh off their season-ending victory against the Saints on New Year’s Eve 2017, the Bucs are looking to silence the doubters/critics in Week 1 by notching consecutive victories over their division rival for the first time since 2011.
Can Koetter and the Bucs make it 3-0? It’s going to be tough without Jameis Winston, but fortunately the Bucs have talent at just about every position.
But hey, what’s football without some bold predictions?
Alex Salvarezza and I will put our reputations on the line every week with five bold predictions for the upcoming game. These are rooted mainly in optimism and delusion with a slight chance of coming true.
Without further delay, let’s dive in.
1. Drew Brees throws for less than 250 yards (Evan)
Since defensive coordinator Mike Smith joined the Bucs in 2015, Tampa Bay is 3-3 against New Orleans; however, Brees has done his thing just about every game to the tune of 271 passing yards per game with seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
While it may not be vintage Brees - it’s a lot more than most NFL teams have at quarterback.
If the defense comes out and looks like the 2017 unit, then the Bucs are in immediate trouble.
But with a reloaded defense, all bets are off this week as the Bucs look to win their second divisional season-opener in three years.
I have little to no confidence in Smith, but I do believe that with an entire offseason to shape a game plan, he should have plenty to throw at Brees on Sunday.
Look for Smith and co. to fight off their demons and get the job done on Sunday.
2. Alvin Kamara records less than 100 total yards (Evan)
I know, this sounds absolutely insane. Kamara torched the Bucs last season with 31 touches for 280 yards and three touchdowns - and those numbers don’t even include his 106-yard kickoff return on New Year’s Eve.
No matter how you cut it Kamara is a stud. It still remains to be seen how he fares without his running mate in Mark Ingram, who is suspended for the first four games because of a PED violation.
The suspension will be enough of a difference for the Bucs to come up with an effective game plan to stop Kamara. The Saints have rookie Boston Scott and newly-signed Mike Gillislee backing him up.
That’s not going to scare many teams at all.
The Bucs should be able to load up the box and prevent Kamara from becoming an effective runner and they have the linebackers to match up with him when he is targeted in the passing game.
Not one team could slow Kamara down in 2017, but the Bucs will be the first to do so in 2018.
3. DeSean Jackson leads the team in receiving (Alex)
Crazy, right? With all the weapons the Buccaneers have on offense, it really is hard to predict each week who will lead in receiving, but not many people would pencil in Jackson for week one.
There are a few reasons why I think this may be a real possibility. Mike Evans will be going up against Marshon Lattimore the reigning DROY, and Lattimore handled Evans very well last season. The chemistry between Jackson and Fitzpatrick has looked sharp all summer long. Finally, Jackson will have many new plays designed for him out of the slot that the defense hasn’t seen before.
I predict a big game for Jackson. 8 catches, 125 yards, and a 60 yard touchdown.
4. Gerald McCoy gets two week one sacks (Alex)
McCoy has only one sack in his last five games against the New Orleans Saints, and hasn’t recorded one against them since 2015. That changes this week. McCoy, finally has quality help along the defensive line, which should create some one on one match-ups.
Throw in a very good preseason and all signs point to McCoy as ready to eat.
It won’t be easy as he will be going up against Max Unger, but McCoy seems to be on a mission this year and I think he starts off the season with a huge statement. He wants to go to the playoffs and will do everything in his power to get the team their this season.
5. The Bucs win the game (Evan)
Almost double-digit underdogs, if the Bucs win that will be enough of a surprise on its own.
Tampa Bay has seen season prognostications as low as 2-14 to as high as 11-5. The team has a bullseye on its back when it comes to perception from fans and most of the media due to Winston’s current situation.
Add in a paper-thin defense and no running game from a season ago and you can’t blame the doubters for their perception of the team.
But Dirk Koetter has shown during his tenure that he will have his team prepped for a huge divisional game for the first week of the season and I think the Bucs start 1-0 after Week 1 for the third straight year.