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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints: Week 15 preview

The Buccaneers look to avoid the season sweep and clinch their first division crown in 14 seasons

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Saints week and those weeks - at least in the regular season - have not been kind to the Buccaneers in recent years. In fact, the Bucs are looking to avoid being swept by New Orleans for the third consecutive season which would tie the record for longest win streak in the matchup’s history - held by the New Orleans Saints.

However, with social media trash talk escalating as the week progresses, Buccaneers fans are always quick to point out that the game that really mattered went to Tampa Bay last season and the Lombardi count does not favor the fleur de lis.

All that is in the past and the only thing that matters is how these teams are doing right now. Since losing to the Saints, the Buccaneers are 4-1 and one win away from winning the division while staying in the hunt for the top seed in the NFC, which would clinch home field advantage as well as a first round bye. The Saints, on the other hand, went through a five game losing streak since that Halloween win and just got a win last week against the New York Jets. Sitting at 6-7 on the season, the Saints are a team that have their backs against the wall and need to string together some wins in order to have a shot at making the playoffs as the bottom of the NFC seeding is a tight race, hovering around the .500 mark.

The Bucs are undefeated at home, averaging 37.5 points at home and are still the only team in the NFL averaging over 30 points per game (31.5) on the season. They’re first in passing (314.2 yards per game), 25th in rushing (96.0 yards per game), and first in total offense (410.2 yards per game). Don’t be fooled by their rushing rank, however. Over the last three games, Leonard Fournette has gone over 100 yards twice and has six total touchdowns. Among NFL running backs, he’s first in yards, first in rushing touchdowns, and second in receiving touchdowns in that span. The bad news is that he hasn’t practiced so far this week putting his status for the prime time matchup very much in question.

To counter the Bucs, New Orleans has a pretty stout defense. They allow just 21.9 points per game (eleventh in the NFL) and are fifth in the NFL in rush defense, allowing 95.0 yards per game. When it comes to the pass, the Saints are sitting at eighteenth, allowing 244.5 yards per game and are eleventh in total defense, allowing 339.5 yards per game.

For the Saints’ offense, they look to Taysom Hill to generate some points with Alvin Kamara and not much else. Marquez Callaway can make some plays down field for sure, but there isn’t that threatening pass catcher like Michael Thomas to strike fear in the hearts of the Bucs secondary. The Saints are averaging just 23.4 points per game, sixteenth in the NFL while passing for 197.9 yards per game, only better than the Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, and Chicago Bears. The Saints’ true threat comes in the run game with Kamara as well as the threat Hill possesses as a runner out of the pocket. The Saints gain 121.5 yards per game - fourteenth in the NFL - but they were without Kamara for a few weeks and Hill didn’t take over as starting quarterback immediately following the injury to Jameis Winston, so they’re more threatening than the numbers would have you believe.

The Bucs’ defense, while improving, still doesn’t match up great from a statistical standpoint. They are nineteenth in the NFL, allowing 22.8 points per game. Still a tough defense to run against, but no longer the best as they allow 91.2 yards per game and just allowed Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen to rush for over 100 yards last week. In the air, the Buccaneers rank 24th in the league, allowing 251.8 passing yards per game.

Over the last two weeks, Chris Godwin has been an unstoppable force. With 25 receptions, he is seven away from tying the franchise record for receptions over a three game stretch, currently held by Mike Evans. What’s puzzling about this two game stretch where Godwin has 25 receptions for 248 yards is that he hasn’t gotten into the end zone in either of the games. He’s sure to be a big part of the game plan yet again this week. Against the Saints in his career, Godwin has the second most touchdowns against any common opponent with six. His most is nine against the Atlanta Falcons. Godwin also has 606 yards on 39 receptions, also second most in his career versus a common opponent (Atlanta, 49). With Godwin being Brady’s favorite target since arriving in Tampa - and the Saints’ propensity to eliminate Mike Evans from the game as best they can - Godwin should see a heavy workload.

Speaking of Evans, he is just 115 yards away from his eighth consecutive season with 1,000 or more receiving yards to start his NFL career - but he has just one career game of over 100 yards against the Saints which came in 2018 where he had seven receptions for 147 yards.

The Saints lead the all time series 38-22 and have won the last six regular season games. In fact, the Bucs don’t have a regular season win over New Orleans in the Bruce Arians era. That said, this is a different team than they’ve seen in those years and a different team than they faced just seven weeks ago. According to the DraftKings Sportsbook, the Buccaneers are -11 and the over/under is sitting at 46.5. The Bucs are sitting on a nine game home win streak but the Saints have covered in six of their last seven as road underdogs.

And in the “strange but true” category, five of the last six Buccaneers games following a game where they went to overtime have hit the over.

The Sunday Night showdown between the Bucs and Saints will kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET in Raymond James Stadium. The game will be broadcast on NBC with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Michelle Tafoya on the call.