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Why the Saints will beat the Bucs
So let me get this straight.
The Saints beat the Colts 62-7 in the most lopsided game of the year. Then, the Saints went on the road to face a backup quarterback and another winless team and the Rams pummeled, embarrassed, and humbled New Orleans.
To quote a famous line from a classic episode of Seinfeld, “You gotta love sports!”
The Saints defense looked wretched last week against Rams quarterback A.J. Feeley. The tackling was poor. Feeley, Steven Jackson and the Rams consistently beat defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ blitzes.
The Bucs, meanwhile, enter the game with the confidence and knowledge that they just beat the Saints in Tampa 26-20 on Oct. 16 in Josh Freeman’s best game of the year. Tampa Bay, which is coming off of a bye week, is thrilled to be getting back running back LeGarrette Blount from an injury. Bucs coach Raheem Morris told me this week on SiriusXM NFL Radio that the plan is for Blount to rush 20-25 times a game, the Tampa formula for winning. To Morris’ point, the Bucs are 7-1 all-time when Blount carries the rock 18 or more times per game.
Despite these facts, I love the Saints on Sunday afternoon.
New Orleans’ three losses this year all have come on the road, against the Bucs, Packers and Rams. This is a different team playing in the Superdome. Drew Brees was interception-happy against St. Louis. This cat is usually a surgeon with his accuracy. I don’t see him falling short again.
Running back Darren Sproles and tight end Jimmy Graham are matchup nightmares. Graham leads all NFL tight ends with 49 catches for 713 yards. He destroyed Tampa last time out with seven catches for 124 yards. Marques Colston plays well against the Bucs, and he had seven catches for 118 yards and a touchdown in the October meeting. Robert Meachem has four touchdowns in his past five games against the Bucs.
All of this against a Tampa defense that is coming off a bad game against Chicago before its bye week.
Speaking of bad games, Josh Freeman had a four-interception clunker vs. the Bears. It’s been a highly inconsistent season for the Bucs quarterback, who has thrown 10 picks against just seven touchdowns. Freeman has started out slowly in ballgames. It’s been a major problem all year and a point of emphasis during the bye week. If you start slow against Brees (who leads the league in passing yards and is tied for second in touchdowns) and the Saints, you lose.
I picked both of these teams to make the playoffs in the preseason, with New Orleans winning the division and Tampa making the playoffs via the wild card. I still very much believe in that upside for both clubs. But Sunday, it comes down to trust. And even after last week, I trust Drew Brees. Only a hater like Peter Schrager wouldn’t have that trust.