(Photo Credit: Sporting News)
With the Buccaneers and Saints gearing up for training camp, it’s time we take a look at the NFC South rival.
This off-season, we here at Pro Football Spot are providing some in-depth looks at division rivals.
The Buccaneers haven’t won the NFC South since the 2007-2008 NFL Season. This year however, the team has more excitement around it than any other in the past decade.
Of course, this means their matchups against division rivals are going to be even more important if the team wishes to capture the crown.
Don’t worry, we’ll get to the Falcons and Panthers soon enough, but for now let’s look at the team which the Buccaneers went 1-1 against in 2016.
In the first game between the Saints and Buccaneers, they faced off in Tampa.
It wasn’t the most impressive of offensive performances as Jameis Winston came away with just 184-yards passing. Meanwhile, Doug Martin netted just 66-yards rushing on 23 carries, but did find the endzone once.
Indeed, this game was won on the leg of embattled kicker Roberto Aguayo.
His three field goals, including a 41-yard make, gave the Bucs all but one of their scores.
Ultimately, the Buccaneers came away with a 16-11 victory pushing them to an 8-5 record.
In their second contest of the 2016 season, the Saints got the “W” and all but ended the Bucs’ playoff hopes.
This time, Winston fired the ball downfield to the tune of 277-yards and two touchdowns. One score went to primary receiver Mike Evans while the other went to stud tight end Cameron Brate.
It wasn’t quite enough though, as the second-year quarterback also threw two interceptions on the day.
Tampa had one of the better run defenses entering this pivotal matchup. Despite this, Mark Ingram was able to grind out 90-yards on the ground and two crucial touchdown scores.
Still, the Bucs were in striking distance entering the fourth. After trading field goals with New Orleans, the Buccaneers fell to 8-7 on the year, splitting their season series with this rival.
2017 Off-Season Moves
Easily the biggest move made by the Buccaneers rival this off-season has been the trading of wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
By trading the star receiver and their own fourth-round pick, the Saints got back the Patriots’ 32nd overall selection and New England’s third-round pick.
The team used one of those picks gained to give Drew Brees some more protection, and the other to help bolster their defensive depth. More on those picks later.
To replace the speedy receiver, New Orleans proceeded to sign free-agent Ted Ginn Jr. from the Panthers.
The veteran is getting up there in age, but still has wheels and big-play ability.
Another newsworthy moment was when Adrian Peterson joined one of the most potent offenses the NFL has ever seen.
It’s yet to be known completely whether or not this will lead to the end of Ingram’s time in the “Big Easy”, but adding a Hall of Fame running back can never be a bad thing.
2017 NFL Draft
While the Buccaneers had an impressive draft haul, this rival is probably pretty happy with their own set of rookies.
Cornerback Marshon Lattimore out of Ohio State immediately addressed an area of need for the team, and should get early action in 2017.
Ryan Ramczyk was selected with the pick gained from New England, and will be a key piece of protection for Brees and his suddenly full stable of running backs.
Speaking of running backs, Alvin Kamara was taken in the third round, and could be the change-of-pace guy this offense needs to go with Peterson and Ingram.
Prior to taking the Tennessee star, New Orleans snagged a safety out of Utah named Marcus Williams.
He likely won’t be a starter anytime soon, but should find ways to impact the defense nonetheless.
The Saints did well addressing their defensive concerns, and added a special weapon for their offense along with them.
We’ll get into November before the Buccaneers face off against Sean Payton’s squad.
Week nine sees the Bucs travel to New Orleans for their second to last game before the bye.
By then, we’ll know a little better how the Saints offense looks without Cooks and with Peterson. We’ll also get to see if the defensive upgrades have actually improved matters for them.
It won’t be until Week 16 when the two foes match up again.
This one should have some playoff implications, so expect this one to flex out of its current 1:00 PM time slot.
It certainly seems like the Buccaneers have improved their offense more than the Saints have improved on defense.
If this proves true, then Tampa should be able to go 2-0 on the year. Still, it’s never as simple as which team has the better roster on paper when it comes to division rivals.
Weakest Link – Saints Secondary
If the Buccaneers are going to sweep the season series, it’ll be on the arm of Winston and the legs of guys like Evans and DeSean Jackson.
New Orleans made strides to fix their secondary, but it shouldn’t be enough in one-year to stifle what the Bucs have done this off-season.
Biggest Threat – Running Game
Adrian Peterson, Mark Ingram, and Alvin Kamara – oh, my.
If the Buccaneers’ defensive line is beaten up by weeks nine and sixteen, then this running group could have a field day.
Of course, this is also assuming their running group isn’t banged up themselves.
This trio of runners is going to be leaned on quite strongly to help the Saints make up for the loss of Cooks.
The Bucs will have to stop them if they want to find success in 2017.
This wraps up our look at the Saints and how they matchup against the Buccaneers in 2017.
We’ve got plenty of time to keep passing judgements before these two collide for real.
Let me know your thoughts on this year’s version of New Orleans’ football squad, and how you see this year’s games going for the good guys.
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