Two of the favorites to win the NFC South will square off at the Louisiana Superdome on Sunday as the New Orleans Saints will host their division rivals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers were victorious on the road last week, defeating the Dallas Cowboys 19-3 last Sunday night. Meanwhile, New Orleans squared off against another division foe in the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1, and came back to triumph 27-26.
Sunday’s matchup may go a long way in determining which team will win the NFC South, and here are three things we will be keeping an eye on.
Tampa Bay’s Kryptonite
Even though the Buccaneers have been one of the best teams in the NFL since Tom Brady decided to take his talents to Tampa Bay, the team has had a lot of trouble beating the Saints in the last two years. New Orleans had been victorious in each of the four regular season matchups against Tampa Bay since Brady joined the team. Dating back even further, the Saints have beaten the Buccaneers seven straight in regular season play.
However, the team that Tampa Bay head coach Todd Bowles will prepare for on Sunday looks a little bit different than the prior versions of the Saints that gave them so much trouble. Drew Brees has retired, and head coach Sean Payton left the team this offseason to work for FOX Sports. Additionally, cornerback Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who infamously grinned at Brady during the Saints’ 9-0 shutout victory over Tampa Bay last year, is no longer with the team. It will be fascinating to see whether the streak continues.
The story surrounding Tampa Bay’s offensive line has been well documented heading into the NFL season, but they did a decent job protecting Brady against Dallas despite missing some talented players up front due to injury.
However, the offense is dealing with more bad injury luck to its skill position players heading into the Saints game. Wide receiver Chris Godwin was activated ahead of the Cowboys game after recovering from a torn ACL he suffered late in the 2021 season. However, the Pro Bowl pass catcher did not make it through the contest as he injured his hamstring. This will force him to miss at least the New Orleans game, and possibly more time.
Fellow receivers Russell Gage and Julio Jones are also nursing ailments of their own, and it will be important to see whether they suit up, and how effective they’ll be.
New Orleans’ Three Headed Monster At Wide Receiver
Coming into the new season, the look and feel of New Orleans’ offense was a major question mark. They had a lot of talent on paper, but their ability to come together, stay healthy and produce were uncertain, especially with the offensive minded Payton no longer on the sidelines.
Early returns have been positive, given the offense’s performance against Atlanta last week. Looking to recapture the brilliance he showed a couple years ago, Michael Thomas caught two touchdown passes against the Falcons. Veteran Jarvis Landry also played well, catching seven passes for 114 yards.
Rookie first round selection Chris Olave also played well last week, catching three passes for 41 yards, and a two point conversion reception. The Saints have a great mix of talent at different stages of their career at wide receiver, which may be difficult for opposing defenses to contain.