Saints-Buccaneers Could Be A Beat Down On Sunday

So far this season, the Saints have given “Who Dat Nation” its share of thrills.  In the opening game of the year, New Orleans came within one yard of potentially tying the reigning Super Bowl Champions at Lambeau field.  In the Superdome, the Texans gave the squad a run for its money, as a shootout resulted in a jubilated Saints team.  Just last week, the Black and Gold went toe-to-toe with the bottom dwellers of the NFC South, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, in a game that was decided on the Saints’ final drive.  Regardless, Saints fans have been on the edge of their seat since day one.  It may just be time for a breather.

In Week Six, that breather may finally arrive.

When everyone looked at the schedule in the offseason, the Saints-Buccaneers matchup in Week Six was surely one to circle.  Last season, the Buccaneers became a rejuvenated ball club, going 10-6 before missing the playoffs by a hair.  Coming into this season, there were many high hopes for Tampa Bay, especially with QB Josh Freeman entering into his third year as a starter.  Also, former Oregon RB LeGarrette Blount became the official starter, and it appeared as though he was ready to take full advantage.

Thus far in 2011, Blount has done exactly that; however, his team has failed to follow his lead.  So far this season, Blount has had a fairly impressive campaign, rushing for 328 yards and three TDs while averaging 65.6 yds/game.  He is currently averaging 4.3 yds/carry.  On the flip side, the rest of the offense has had its struggleBlounts.  The young Freeman has been off to a sluggish start, completing 64.0% of his passes for 1156 yards, three TDs and six INTs.  He is averaging 223.4 yds/game through the air with a lowly 74.1 QB rating.  Oh, and remember that Mike Williams guy from last season?  He hasn’t gotten into any type of rhythm yet either.  It seems as though finding Williams has been a difficult task for Freeman this year, as Williams has only caught 19 of the 39 passes thrown in his direction for 183 yards and a TD.

So why do I believe that this should be a fairly easy game for the Saints?

Blount won’t be able to run through the shoddy New Orleans run defense. 

The Saints’ run defense is currently ranked in the middle of the pack (15th), allowing 538 total yards, four TDs and 107.6 yds/game.  Without the threat of Blount in the backfield due to a leg injury (and the strong possibility that the Buccaneers will have to play from behind), it’s safe to assume that head coach Raheem Morris will have to rely on his young QB to help Tampa Bay achieve victory.  Although the Saints’ pass defense hasn’t been any better than their run “D” (The pass defense is currently ranked 16th, allowing 1,235 yards, 247.0 yds/game and ten TDs.), Josh Freeman’s inconsistency allows me to sleep a little better at night.  Oh, and because I love the “split stats” so much, I’m going to hit you with one:  Josh Freeman is not the greatest QB when playing from behind, as he has completed 63.8% of his passes for 886 yards, three TDs and three INTs for an 81.8 QB rating when his team is trailing.  The odds point to him having to play from a deficit again on Sunday. 

And as if the nightmare couldn’t get any worse for Bucs fans, the team’s pass defense walked iDrew Breesnto the picture.  I’m sure Saints QB Drew Brees is smiling right about now, as the Tampa Bay pass “D” is certainly nothing to brag about.  Ranked 20th in the NFL, they have allowed 1,273 total yards through the air, nine TDs, 254.6 yds/game and 67 first downs.  Add on the fact that they have only recorded two INTs in the process, and arguably the Bucs’ best pass rusher, Gerald McCoy, will be out with a leg injury, and one could assume that Brees will be making many fantasy football owners happy over the course of the contest.

All in all, this looks like a truly disastrous game in the making for the Buccaneers.  Without the likes of Blount and McCoy, both the offensive and defensive sides of the football seem to be in for quite a beating.  To achieve victory, Tampa Bay will have to rely on the arm of its third-year QB; an arm that has had an up-and-down season thus far.  All the while, the Saints come in with a healthy three-headed monster in the backfield (Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, and Pierre Thomas), a Super Bowl MVP at QB waiting to man-handle a poor pass defense, and an angry defensive secondary looking to make up for its disappointing performance only a week ago against Carolina. 

This one could get ugly.

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