Week 17 Tale of the Tape: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- QuarterbackIt’s been a tremendous season for the New Orleans Saints, and they can clinch the NFC South title with a win in this game. Drew Brees is a remarkable leader who can still make all the throws, but he is best on medium-range and shorter passes. Brees has an exceptional ability to read defenses and find the open man. He has shown exceptional accuracy, completing 71.9 percent of his passes.The Bucs came into the season thinking they would challenge for the NFC South title and would have an excellent chance of earning a playoff spot. It hasn’t worked out that way, and Jameis Winston has not had the season that most expected. He has thrown for 3,141 yards with 18 touchdown passes and eight interceptions, but he has not made enough big plays.
- OffenseThe Saints have had a superb ground game that has taken a great deal of pressure off of Brees, and that has helped give the Saints the second-ranked offense in the league. The combination of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara has been exceptional, as the two have combined for 1,773 yards and 19 touchdowns. Michael Thomas is the go-to wideout while Ted Ginn has been exceptional in a complementary role.The Bucs have had a big problem because their offense has been one-dimensional this season. Head coach Dirk Koetter expected Doug Martin to be a positive factor this season, but he has gained 409 yards with a paltry 3.0 yards per carry mark. Mike Evans is an exceptional talent, but he has not been brilliant this season. DeSean Jackson has struggled to a large degree with just three TD receptions.
- DefenseWhile it has been a season of vast improvement for the New Orleans defense, this unit could have problems in the postseason when the Saints are facing the best offensive teams in the NFC. Defensive end Cameron Jordan has had a huge impact with 12.0 sacks, while cornerback Marshon Lattimore has five interceptions and 22 passes defensed.The Bucs have fallen apart on defense, as they rank 31st and struggle to stop any opponent at crucial moments. Injuries have hurt this team, but good teams find a way to overcome, and the Bucs have simply given in. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (biceps) has long been the unit’s best player and he has 6.0 sacks, but he needs teammates who can contribute.
- Special TeamsThe Saints have excellent talent on their special teams, but they haven’t always performed at that level. They have been outgained significantly in punt-return differential, but Ginn has the speed to break a long return at any time. Thomas Morstead is averaging 47.1 yards per punt and is a key factor.The Bucs have worked hard and their coverage teams have done a good job, as they have limited opponents to 6.2 yards per punt return. Patrick Murray has been decent during his 11 games with the team, making 18-of-22 FG attempts. Bryan Anger is an average punter.
The Bucs are in disarray, and the coaching staff does not seem to have a clue as to how to get the team out of its funk. Look for the Saints to take control of this game and win fairly easily.