The Buccaneers (-2.5) welcome the Saints (+2.5) to town in a game where the Bucs could clinch a third straight NFC South title with a win. Tampa has won four straight and will be looking for their first five game win streak since 2016.
To preview the game, we sat down with Luke Hubbard of Canal Street Chronicles to get a more in depth look at how the Saints have been doing this season.
1. Like every team in the NFC south, the Saints season has been nothing short of a roller coaster. Why has the team not been able to play with consistency throughout the season?
Well for starters, the quarterback play has been wildly inconsistent. Derek Carr has put together some good games this season, but he almost always follows a good game up with a bad one. I think that can be attributed to three things; 1) Pete Carmichael has been one of the worst play callers. He’ll call three games where the offense looks bland and uses next to no pre snap motion, but once it seems like he’s finally on the hot seat, he calls a pretty good game and removes some of the heat off himself. 2) The Saints offensive weapons have been in and out of the lineup. Michael Thomas has been out for a while, Chris Olave, Juwan Johnson and Rashid Shaheed have all missed time. This is Carr’s first season with the Saints and he’s still trying to build chemistry with his playmakers, but when they’re injured it sets them back. 3) Derek Carr just isn’t as good of a quarterback as Saints fans thought he was before the season.
Another reason for the inconsistency is because in the beginning of the season, when the offense was struggling, the defense was able to pick them up. That hasn’t been the case recently. The defense, outside of the Panthers and Giants game, has been bad in all facets of the game. Basically, it’s been a mixture of bad offense, bad defense and bad coaching.
2. After now seeing a mostly full season of Derek Carr, what are Saints fans opinions of the veteran quarterback moving forward?
They want him gone as soon as possible, but that’s not going to happen. They’re tied to him at least through next season and I honestly think he’ll be in NOLA for at least another two seasons. I talked about his struggles a lot in the first question, but he’s just been so inconsistent. He can never have two good games in a row, and when you’re making 150 million dollars over four years, fans have the right to expect better play.
3. When looking at this Saints team, what is the biggest strength and weakness right now?
I would say their biggest strength is their offensive weapons. They’ve got so many playmakers such as Alvin Kamara, Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed and Taysom Hill, but again, the play calling and quarterback play has held them back this season. Chris Olave has 1,000 yards this season, but there have been so many throws left on the field by Carr misfires. Rashid Shaheed is one of the biggest deep threats in the league, and while he’s made a lot of big plays, there again have been so many throws that Carr has missed. Alvin Kamara might be the worst utilized star in the NFL. Carmichael uses him for halfback dives between the tackles and little 2 yard check downs where he has no room to make a guy miss. Actually, I take that back. Kamara is the second worst utilized star in the league, the first is Taysom Hill. That man can do it all on offense, but for some reason he’s completely out of the game plan half the time. It’s very frustrating to watch a team with so much talent be held down by coaching and quarterback play.
The biggest weakness of this team is coaching. I’ll spare you the Pete Carmichael talk since I’ve already talked a lot about it, but Dennis Allen has to be one of the worst head coaches in the league. His best record in a season is 7-10 (last season with the Saints). Before that, it was 4-12. There is almost nothing good about this Saints coaching staff and they’re the reason this team isn’t in control of their destiny entering the final two weeks of the season.
4. This is a pivotal matchup in the NFC south. What positional matchup do you think will end up being the X factor and determine who wins the game?
Baker Mayfield and the Bucs receivers vs the Saints secondary. When they had Lattimore, the Saints secondary was one of the best in the league, but lately, they’ve been struggling. On the flip side, Mayfield and Mike Evans have been playing their best ball of the season of late. With Lattimore out, the guy who usually shuts Mike Evans down, I don’t see this Saints secondary having much success against the Bucs offense.
5. According to DraftKings, the Bucs are a slight home favorite at -2.5. Do you think this line is fair and how do you see the game playing out on Sunday?
I think the Bucs should be heavier favorites. -2.5 tells me they think these teams are about even on a neutral field, and that’s just not the case. If it was all about talent on paper, I’d lean the Saints, but since this game is played on the field with coaches, I think the Bucs have the heavy advantage. I see this game going pretty similar to the week four matchup where the Bucs beat down on the Saints in the Superdome. I think the Saints will score more than 9 points in this matchup, but I still think the Bucs win by a touchdown or so.
Thanks so much to Luke for doing this!