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What could happen, should happen, and will happen: Buccaneers vs. Saints

In this series, we’ll break down different scenarios that could, should, and will happen before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get a chance to play them out.

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Tampa Bay has not lost a game yet, in the month of December. The old football adage “The season doesn’t truly start till after Thanksgiving” has been a perfect representation of the 2023 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have rolled through their last two opponents on a four-game winning streak which has taken the team from 4-7, with questions and outrage— to 8-7, with hope and optimism.

For the fourth time, in as many weeks, the Buccaneers will be up against another team vying for a spot in the playoffs. The previous three matchups have resulted in Tampa Bay bolstering their postseason status. Each week, of Tampa’s December win-streak has presented a crescendoing challenge and this week will be no different. The New Orleans Saints, in a win-and-you’re-in scenario, will prove to be a difficult foe.

Here are some things that could, should, and will play out during the game—

Mike Evans could FEAST.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Mike Evans has been one of the best players in Buccaneers’ team history. The 2023 season is playing out as one of Evans’ greatest seasons to date. With two games remaining, Evans has well over 1,100 yards receiving, 13 touchdowns, and 73 catches. Though he is unlikely to top his personal best 1,524-yard campaign of 2018, or his 96-catch effort in 2016, Evans certainly could set a new career high in touchdowns scored (14) for a single season. Of course Mike Evans has the potential to break any game wide open, but this week in particular may line up for him to have a big game, due to a couple of factors. Earlier this season, in Tampa’s first game against the Saints, Evans was off to a hot start against his arch-nemesis, Marshon Lattimore. Evans finished the day with only 40 yards on three catches, however, an important detail to note is that he recorded those marks, while also forcing Lattimore into a pivotal penalty in less than a half of play. Evans exited the game early on with a hamstring injury.

This week, there will be no Marshon Lattimore and Mike Evans is coming off a two touchdown outing a week ago. The Bucs and Baker Mayfield have shown they are not afraid to feature Mike Evans and give him opportunities to make plays when defenses leave him one on one. If the Saints are foolish enough to put themselves in that situation, Mike Evans could FEAST.

The Buccaneers should look to stay consistent with their running game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images

Tampa Bay has wanted to transition into a running team since Todd Bowles took over as the head man. Last year, with Tom Brady, an underachieving Leonard Fournette, and rookie Rachaad White that formula was not successful.

2023 started in a very similar fashion. Some new names and faces, but mostly the same results. The Buccaneers, against the wishes of many, have stayed with their run game and the results have beared fruit. Over the course of Tampa Bay’s win-streak, Rachaad White has carried the ball no less than 20 times in any one game. Prior to December third, against the Carolina Panthers, White had recorded just two games of 20 carries all season. Not all of White’s games have been remarkable successes, but it’s no coincidence that the team’s offense has perked up in unison with White’s production. Any team that boasts the skill position players that Tampa’s passing game does, becomes infinitely more dangerous when they establish an ability to also beat teams on the ground. White does not need to average five yards per carry, or rush for 120 yards and two scores, but the Buccaneers should make sure they stay consistent, regarding the opportunities he receives.

This game will be poetic justice… For someone.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

This is the matchup, Bucs–Saints. For both franchises, the game has a chance to write a poetic finish to their season. Two division rivals, who have been at each other’s throats for years— One game to decide it all.

The Buccaneers have a chance to take their new quarterback and smash the “They only won because of Brady narrative.” Tampa will be at home, in front of their fans, trying to claim the franchise’s third consecutive NFC South title. Achieving that, after the offseason, and early-season narratives the team faced, could only be more fitting if the game came against the rival so many Buccaneers’ fans have spent years dreading. For Tampa Bay Sunday's game represents more than just a win or a loss.

For the New Orleans Saints, this game is equally as big-picture-relevant. The Bucs have begun to wipe away the stain of the Saints consistent dominance over them. New Orleans needs to regain the “Big brother beating little brother” atmosphere these games used to have. With both organizations moving off of a legend, the Saints choss to invest significantly more money into the quarterback position this offseason. That decision hasn’t quite played out in the fashion New Orleans' fans would’ve hoped, as Baker Mayfield on an inexpensive one-year contract has outplayed Derek Carr in every relevant statistic. For the Saints, losing this game will represent the end of the days of old— Where Tampa Bay represented two easy victories on their schedule. Simultaneously, a win at a crucial juncture, such as this Sunday, has the ability to rush all of those old feelings back into play.

For one of these two teams Sunday will represent poetic justice.

Do you agree with our list? Do you disagree? What are some things you think could, should, and will happen this week?

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