“40 Something”

NFC Divisional Playoff

(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (2) New Orleans Saints

Bucs: They were able to win their first playoff game since 2003, the year when they won the Super Bowl! I saw them handle business against the Washington Football Team in the Wild Card round. Tom was on it as you’d expect. He spread the ball around to the open receiver but there were times when Chris Godwin was open and he dropped the ball. I’ll say this though about their defensive efforts last Saturday night. If you know anything about a Todd Bowles coached defense, he will blitz and send them regularly. That almost hurt the Buccaneers and when they blitz so much, that tells me one thing. They can’t rush the passer without having to send additional guys. There was a bullseye on Tampa Bay’s back. The playoffs simply aren’t enough. Win the whole thing. Now, they face a team they’ve seen twice already this season on Sunday.

Saints: Everybody has had mixed thoughts about them. I know they haven’t been the explosive offense we are accustomed to seeing. If you have watched them closely, it’s been more of a short to intermediate passing attack which has worked. With Michael Thomas shelved because of an ankle injury throughout the regular season, Alvin Kamara has stepped up and become the Saints’ top offensive weapon. By far, this was the best I’ve seen him look in his young career. Now to the other side of the football. At the beginning, the Saints struggled defensively. Then, I saw a group turn the light switch on and since then, they’ve improved. Their front four is consistently applying pressure and winning their battles upfront. Most importantly, they create takeaways to get the ball back for the offense. They’re home for another week and a familiar team is back in town on Sunday.

Bucs X-Factor: Devin White– Without him, you saw the difference in the Tampa Bay defense. He’s their best defensive player. Devin is everywhere for the Bucs. He can rush the passer, he can stop the run and he plays from sideline to sideline. Also, I see Devin helping the Tampa defense the most on third down to get off the field.

Saints X-Factor: Jared Cook– I like his role within the Saints offense. He’s a big target that Drew can get the football too down the field when necessary. Jared is a big guy but has the speed to sneak behind coverages to get open. I look for the Saints to get him in a one on one situation with a linebacker or safety in space.

Final Thoughts: This has been the one game everyone has circled! I knew we would get a legendary quarterback battle in the divisional round. However, I was unsure about which capacity we’d see it. It’s the third meeting between Brady and Brees. The Saints got the best of the Buccaneers during the regular season. The Saints pass rush must throw Brady off his spot. Make him hesitate before he throws the football. Also, find different ways to get Kamara the football because Tampa is great at stopping the run. On the other side for Tampa Bay, be careful with blitzing! You rush Brees like that, he will pick you apart.

Prediction: Saints 31 Bucs 24


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