The time is finally here. It’s Week 1 of the 2020 regular season.
The Bucs open their season with a tough game. They’ll head over to the Big Easy to take on Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints for the 57th meeting between the two teams.
This is a huge game. The winner automatically starts the season with a 1.5 game lead over the other and the loser will be left figuring out how to avoid an 0-2 start.
Let’s dive into the first game preview of the 2020 season.
- All-time series record: The Saints lead the all-time series, 35-21. They’ve won three in a row and last year was the first in-season sweep of the Bucs since the 2014 season.
- Longest win streak: The Saints won seven straight games from 2011-2014.
- Largest margin of victory: The Saints’ 2012 41-0 beatdown of the Bucs still stands as the largest margin of victory in the series.
- 2019 offensive and defensive rankings: Tampa Bay finished with the third-best offense in 2019 (No. 1 passing, No. 24 rushing) and the 15th-ranked defense (No. 30 passing, No. 1 rushing). The Saints fielded the ninth-best offense in the NFL (No. 7 passing, No. 16 rushing) and the 11th-best defense (No. 20 passing, No. 4 rushing).
What To Watch For
- The Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski Effect: I mean, do I need to explain, here? All eyes will be on Brady and the Bucs when these two teams kick off.
- Tampa Bay’s pass rush: The Saints held the Bucs to just one sack in two meetings last year, including a big ol’ goose egg in New Orleans. That was the only game in 2019 where the Bucs didn’t record a sack. They also averaged just nine pressures in two games against the Saints compared to an average of 24 pressures per game in the other 14 games. The Bucs have to get to Brees if they want to win this game.
- Vita Vea vs. the Saints’ interior offensive line: Vea was absolutely stymied in both games against the Saints last year and that’s because Payton took him out of the game. Rookie Cesar Ruiz is out, leaving the Saints with a question mark at guard. Vea has to find a way to be effective this week.
- Michael Thomas vs. the Bucs’ secondary: It’s anyone’s guess as to who will see Thomas the most and that’s due to the insane variety of personnel and formations that the Saints like to run. You want to see Carlton Davis III on Thomas the most, but it will take a group effort to derail the Saints’ best receiver.
- Ryan Succop: How will Tampa Bay’s new kicker look? Everyone knows about the Bucs’ kicking woes. Will they continue to plague Tampa Bay in New Orleans?
- QB Tom Brady: He’s the reason why all eyes are on Tampa Bay this year. He’s a six-time Super Bowl champion and is supposed to end the Bucs’ playoff drought.
- WR Chris Godwin: Godwin took over as the Bucs’ main playmaker last year and should continue to fill that role this year.
- RT Tristan Wirfs: Talk about a helluva starting assignment. Wirfs will face off against Cameron Jordan. The rest of the Saints’ front seven is no joke, either.
- DL Vita Vea: As I mentioned earlier, he has to find a way to show up in this game. The pass rush starts with Vea, to be honest.
- LB Devin White: The second-year linebacker missed the first matchup, but came back to record 13 tackles in the second game. He will be needed in a major way on Sunday.
- S Antoine Winfield Jr.: He’s listed as the starting safety opposite Jordan Whitehead on the Bucs’ depth chart. If he plays significant snaps, then he will be crucial in stopping New Orleans’ vertical attack.
New Orleans Saints
- QB Drew Brees: It’s amazing what Brees has done over the course of his career and he was as good as ever last year. The Bucs have to slow him down if they want to win.
- WR Michael Thomas: Bucs fans —and the team— remember how Thomas lit them up last year. He must be accounted for on every play.
- G Nick Easton - He’ll play since Ruiz is out. You’d think that Payton will find a way to give him some help, but how he plays will have a big impact on the game.
- DE Cameron Jordan: He talks a big game, but he certainly backs it up. His mouth is probably watering thinking about his matchup with Wirfs.
- LB Demario Davis: This dude is a monster and finally got the respect he deserves last year. He’s the heart and soul of the defense.
- S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson: One of the team’s biggest surprises last year, Ceedy Duce figures to be a major part of the defense in his second year.
- The Buccaneers scored 458 points in 2019, which were the most points scored in a single season in franchise history, topping the previous record set (396) just one year prior.
- If Shaquil Barrett can rack up 15.0-or-more sacks in 2020, he would become just the 11th player in NFL history to post consecutive seasons with at least 15.0 sacks.
- Sean Murphy-Bunting led the Buccaneers with three interceptions in 2019, which were the most by a Tampa Bay rookie since 2008 and tied for the fourth-most by a rookie in team history.
- Following a second-half surge that saw the Buccaneers defense improve from 23rd in the NFL (Weeks 1-9) to 8th over the final eight weeks of the season, the Buccaneers defense led the NFL with 57 passes defensed in 2019.
- Over that final eight-week stretch, Davis III and Jamel Dean tied for the most passes defensed in the league (13), along with Steelers CB Joe Haden. For the season, Davis III finished second in the NFL (19) and Dean finished tied for fourth (17).
*Stats provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Communications Department
I really have no idea what to expect from this game.
But in order to avoid a copout, I’ll still attempt to give some sort of insight.
The Saints have a ton of continuity on their team and so do the Bucs. However, the Saints have the trio of Sean Payton, Pete Carmichael, and Brees - who have been together for over a decade now.
New Orleans’ defense has also largely held together and has been in the same system under Dennis Allen now for five seasons. The Bucs, on the other hand, are entering their second season under Todd Bowles with a very, very young core of players.
Who knows if it’d be any different with a full and normal offseason. That doesn’t matter, though, because it’s not reality. Unfortunately, it seems as if the Saints will pull this one off primarily because the Bucs won’t be ready just yet.