Coming off an eleven win regular season and their first playoff win as a franchise since their Super Bowl winning 2002-2003 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be entering this round feeling like they have little left to prove.
This might be the case if they were facing just about anybody other than the team they are facing. The New Orleans Saints.
The NFC South Champion Saints aren’t just the 2020 division champs, they’re big brother to Tampa Bay’s - and for what it’s worth, Atlanta and Carolina’s - little brother standing in the division.
Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and even Antonio Brown were all brought in to help knock Drew Brees and the Saints down a peg in the NFC South hierarchy. As we enter Sunday however, the Saints remain at the top.
Twice the Bucs had chances to rock the divisional boat, and twice they failed. Those were battles. This Sunday is the war.
If expectations are met and Drew Brees retires after the season, beating New Orleans in 2021 just won’t have the same feeling of satisfaction. Losing to them will be even worse, but that’s a discussion for a later date.
No, if the Bucs want to take the top spot, they have just one more chance to do it. And if they do, nobody will remember the two regular season losses. Just the one post-season win.
Entering the game, the New Orleans Saints are three point favorites to hand Bruce Arians and his Buccaneers a third loss of the year. It would be their third of six, and would mean Sean Payton accounted for literally half of all Tampa Bay defeats in 2020.
One player who has become a nemesis of sorts for Bucs Nation is Taylor Hill. The ‘Swiss Army knife’ player has come up with some big plays in big moments for his team, much to the chagrin of the Bucs and their supporters. In this weekend’s match-up however, it seems odds makers expect Tampa Bay to have learned from previous experiences, projecting an over/under of just 29.5 yards for Hill. Of course, his presence on the week’s injury reports could also have played a hand in this.
Bucs fans would be happy to see Hill contained under thirty-yards of total offense of course. They’d also like to see Devin White get involved early and often for the Buccaneers defense.
The second-year linebacker missed the Wild Card round due to COVID-19 restrictions, so this weekend marks his first career playoff game. One in which he has a 40% chance of notching his first-career playoff sack.
Every playoff game is big, but this one is a bit bigger. The odds are stacked against White and his Buccaneers teammates, but they won’t let that prevent them from doing their best to send Drew Brees out of the Superdome a loser, for the last time.