Week 9 is poised to be a pivotal week for the New Orleans Saints. A mouthwatering Sunday night football lies ahead as the Saints aim to complete a sweep over division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The New Orleans Saints has yet to hit top gear despite their 5-2 start to the season, but they have an opportunity to silence the critics with a win against Tom Brady and the surging Bucs.
A Win Against Tom Brady Can Silence New Orleans Saints Critics
The Story so Far
Sean Payton and Drew Brees will be the first to tell reporters they have not played their best football so far in 2020. The defense continues to give up big plays and penalties. The offense is limited throughout long stretches of games. Furthermore, there is a clear over-reliance on superstar Alvin Kamara to be the best running back in the league.
Kamara is the best running back in the league this year. His overall stats are monstrous. However, the Saints need Michael Thomas back in the lineup to restore some balance to the attack. Regardless, the Saints are 5-2 heading into Tampa.
Despite the penalties, they play complementary football. Brees does not turn the ball over and the defense does make big plays in crucial moments. Trey Hendrickson’s third-down sack of Nick Foles in overtime against the Chicago Bears is just one of many examples. The sack forced the Bears to punt the ball away. The Saints won the game on the next possession.
Tampa Bay has had similar lapses in their play, accounting for their two losses. However, when they are at their best they have looked like a potential powerhouse. In their win over the Green Bay Packers, the Bucs defense made Aaron Rodgers look less than ordinary for three quarters in a blowout win.
Tampa was also able to limit the Saints offense despite losing to New Orleans in Week 1. On opening day, New Orleans maintained control of the ball and forced key turnovers. Tom Brady was intercepted twice, including a 36-yard pick-six for Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Turnovers cost Tampa in Week 1 as the new-look offense struggled to find its rhythm.
Going into Week 9 however, the Bucs sit atop the NFC South at 6-2. They are yet to have their bye week.
The Key Matchups
The Tampa Bay defense did not look as dominant against the Daniel Jones led New York Giants on Monday Night. Yet they still came away with three sacks and two interceptions. Showing why they are being hyped up as one of the best in the NFL. Especially in the secondary, where Antoine Winfield Jr’s play had made him a contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Devin White is the player to watch on defense for Tampa. How the Bucs attempt to guard Saints running back Alvin Kamara could decide this game. Linebacker White is the most likely option to be given first shot at guarding Kamara in the passing game. Where Kamara has been so productive for New Orleans.
Mike Evans and Marshon Lattimore will write a new chapter in their rivalry. That contest has been must-see TV since Lattimore’s rookie season. The two began to fight when Lattimore shoved then Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston. Evans took exception and was ejected for his retaliation that day. It’s been a good contest between the two since that. Evans was held to just one reception in Week 1, but it was the first of his seven touchdowns in 2020.
The biggest question mark ahead of the game is new Buccaneer Antonio Brown. He is eligible to play this week and the world is wondering what Antonio Brown will show up on Sunday Night Football, and how well has New Orleans prepared for Brown if he is to be a major part of the Bucs gameplan.
New Orleans Saints can silence the critics
The Saints have an opportunity this week to make a statement that they are serious contenders in 2020. The kind of statement they thought they had made when they first bested the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1; before losing two straight and the questions arose surrounding the legitimacy of this New Orleans teams Superbowl challenge.
The same questions continue to be asked despite the Saints new four-game winning streak. Can the team continue to win without a downfield passing game? Should they stop using Taysom Hill has much? Will the defense put together a good 60 minutes?
One thing is for sure. The Saints are one of the best situational teams in the league. They continue to win, despite all the negativity.
Their “control the ball, eat up the time of possession” offense has won three NFC South crowns on the bounce. Taysom Hill just rushed for seven yards a carry and caught his first touchdown pass of the season against the Bears, running a route like a seasoned tight-end in the process.
The New Orleans Saints defense ranks eighth in average yards allowed per game and top three in rush defense. They need to generate more takeaways overall to tip the turnover differential more in the team’s favour. But they rank ninth in total sacks per game on defense as the defensive line continues to get healthy.
If they get pressure on Tom Brady this Sunday, the New Orleans Saints will silence the critics.