The Talking Plank - Week 12
The Talking Plank - Week 12
Saints At Bucs:
The Bucs begin a 3 game NFC South stretch that can define their playoff position, or could end their playoff run before it starts. The Saints just got off a Monday Night game against the Packers, one in which they ran up the score. Now the Bucs need to take revenge for their game 1 loss and take control of their Division.
On Offense, the Bucs come in ranked 12th overall (342.8y/g), 16th in points (23.4/g), 11th passing (227.6y/g), and 13th rushing (115.2y/g). The Saints come in ranked 22nd in total defense (345.9y/g), 24th in points allowed (25.3/g), 24th against the pass (235.1y/g), and 18th against the run (110.8y/g). The Bucs were able to put up some yards and points against the Saints in week 1, despite really poor play from Garcia, which ended up in his benching. Since then, Garcia has started to play like the Garcia from early last season. He's starting to take more chances, and starting to attack down field more. Now the Bucs, having come back, yet again, on the road, come home where they are 5-0. Dunn will continue to be the primary runner, but Williams will likely start to get more carries, and more opportunities in the passing game. With both runners, the Bucs should be able to mix it up enough to make it tough on the Saints' defense to key on the runners, assuming Gruden does leave Williams in on enough pass plays to keep them honest. Alex Smith may be available for the game, but will be a game time decision, but Stevens can abuse the Saints, who can't match up. The Bucs will likely focus on attacking the Saints through the air to open up the running game, and to attack the endzone. Bryant, Clayton, and Hilliard should be able to take advantage of this secondary. If Garcia continues to attack more, and hit the receivers that are open down the field, the Bucs will score points, and score plenty. The Saints only have 20 sacks, and I don't expect him to be under too much pressure. If he keeps his cool and stays upright, he should have a good game, and the running game should augment the passing game enough to score well over 20 points.
On Defense, the Bucs are ranked 4th overall (274.7y/g), 3rd in points allowed (16.4/g), 2nd against the pass (174.6y/g), and 13th against the run (100.1y/g). The Saints' offense is ranked 1st overall (411.9y/g), 3rd in points (28.8/g), 1st passing (319.5y/g), and 27th rushing (92.4y/g). The Bucs played somewhat poorly against the Saints the first time these teams met. Since then the defense has become much better, and been very good against a plethora of highly rated offenses. The Bucs are currently holding opposing QB's to a 71.4 passer rating, and look to have a better game against Brees than the first time. They've recently gotten a much better pass rush, but this has been against weaker offensive lines. The Saints have only allowed 9 sacks all year, with one coming from the Bucs. Brees was able to hit some big plays in this game, and the Bucs must be weary of that happening again. Look for the Bucs to start, as always, with the running game, and then to try and put some pressure on Brees. I expect some creative blitzing, and aggressive play by the offensive line. The Saints aren't nearly as good on the road as they are in the dome, and the Bucs only lost game 1 by 4 points and were driving for the winning score when Garcia threw a pick. So the Saints can be slowed down, and I expect the environment at Ray Jay to be tough enough for the much improved defense to take the Saints down a notch. I can see a couple of picks in this game. Bush is not nearly as fast on the grass as he is on turf, and I believe the Bucs will slow him down dramatically. While I don't expect the defense to stuff the Saints, I do expect them to slow the Saints down. This may be helped out by our offense holding the ball for long periods of times and keeping the Saints' offense off the field.
On Special Teams, the Bucs are averagin 9 yards per punt return (18.1 by Smith) and 25.2 yards per kick (30.3 by Smith). The Bucs are allowing 9.5 yards per punt and 20.9 yards per kick. The Saints are averaging 19.8 yards per punt and 23.3 yards per kick, while allowing 11.7 yards per punt and 23.3 yards per kick return. The Bucs will definitely have to work hard to shut down the Saints' punt return teams, but, at the same time, the Bucs should be able to take advantage of the Saints' coverage units. Smith could be a factor in this game. Whether or not Bush, who is averaging 10 more yards per punt than Lance Moore, will return punts or not is questionable. He expects to play and perform in all facets, but we'll see. Both punters are excellent, so there's no significant advantage for either team. The Saints are on their third place kicker, so it will be interesting to see the impact here. The Bucs are probably the team most likely to benefit from the field position battle, but the Saints can get great position as well, especially if Bush returns punts and the Bucs struggle to stop him. Hopefully, the home field advantage will play out here.
In the end, the Saints have to come here, on the road, on a surface that negates some of their speed, and face a much improved Bucs' team that nearly beat them in game 1. Look for the Bucs to come out hitting and making plays. The Bucs win this game and start to take control of the South.
Bucs 24 Saints 17