NFL Game of the Week: Buccaneers vs. Saints

Story posted November 7, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Jeremy Ganes

The two top teams in the NFC South face off in a game that could have major implications on who ultimately wins the division. The 5-2 New Orleans Saints and the 6-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers square off at Raymond James Stadium.

These are two of the most interesting teams in the NFL right now. The Saints are a team that have been very good for a long time but have never reached the highest level of success, while the Buccaneers have been mediocre at best until future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady decided to move down south and help this struggling franchise.

Despite scoring only 25 points against the Giants, Tom Brady’s Buccaneers are starting to come into peak form. After a few weeks of offensive struggles, it appears that Brady has taken full control of the offense and is settling into a comfortable position.  Besides their recent offensive dud against Big Blue, the Tampa Bay offense has taken off, averaging 31 points per game. Despite the running back rotation the team is using, proper balance between Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette has added up to 102.6 yards per game on the ground.

As NFL fans, we are all used to the New Orleans Saints being a well-oiled machine on offense, but in 2020, they’ve been anything but. Top wide receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have both been in and out of the Saints lineup, and quarterback Drew Brees’ arm doesn’t have the same amount of zip at age 41. This has left running back Alvin Kamara to take on an even larger role in the Saints offense than he has in the last few years.

The Saints defense has been reliable in recent seasons, but this year’s unit has been much less so. They permit opponents to gain nearly 350 yards per game, and much of that yardage is through the air. Despite having top-level secondary players like cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the Saints have been frequently picked apart for yards through the air in 2020.

The Saints largely rely on the dynamic playmaking ability of Alvin Kamara, though Latavius Murray has stepped in to provide a second source of playmaking ability. After an extended absence that was elongated by a suspension, Michael Thomas is questionable going into this game. His availability and consistency as a playmaker can make a potentially gigantic difference in this game. Thomas accounts for the highest portion of his offense compared to any No. 1 receiver, so his presence will be important.

Another name to keep an eye on will be Antonio Brown. The former Steelers star is back in the NFL after being reinstated from suspension this week. The Buccaneers picked him up recently, and if Chris Godwin isn’t cleared to play on Sunday night, maybe the old vet will pick up the slack.

Despite the experience of the Saints, the momentum belongs to Brady’s Bucs. As we have seen in years before, once Brady truly takes over, it’s “goodnight, Irene” for all opposing clubs in the NFL. It was only a matter of time before Tom’s version of Tampa Bay took form, and we are witnessing it before our eyes.

Prediction: Buccaneers 30, Saints 24

 

Jeremy Ganes is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jlg6097@psu.edu.