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Key Matchups: Buccaneers vs. Saints

Posted Dec 27, 2013

Vincent Jackson has had quite a bit of success against the Saints and will test their recently-depleted secondary on Sunday, but the Bucs defense has its own challenge in Drew Brees

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) will take on the New Orleans Saints (10-5) Sunday at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here are several matchups between individual players and/or certain team units that could go a long way towards determining the game's final outcome:

Tampa Bay Ss Mark Barron & Dashon Goldson vs. New Orleans TE Jimmy Graham
This season, Graham ranks 14th among all pass-catchers and first among tight ends in receiving yardage. He also has 15 receiving touchdowns, tops among all NFL players and three more than the next highest scorer. In Week Two against the Bucs, Graham led his team with 10 catches, 179 yards and a score, putting up 36 more receiving yards than the rest of his team combined. The Bucs safety tandem will need to be all over Graham in this game and force Brees to use his other targets. Since Week 2, the Bucs have been solid against opposing TEs, having allowed over 70 yards just twice since that meeting. A complicating factor: Barron has been limited this week in practice after missing the St. Louis game with a hamstring injury.

- The Bucs did a fairly good job of limiting Saints QB Drew Brees in their first matchup of 2013
Buccaneers CB Darrelle Revis vs. Saints WR Marques Colston
If the Buccaneers can successfully lock up Graham, Brees will likely turn to his second favorite target, Colston, who will spend the day facing off with Revis. This season, Revis has continued to be one of the most feared cornerbacks in the game, often taking opposing #1 receivers out of the equation. Colston had four receptions for 63 yards in the first meeting, but should see more man-to-man this time around. Colston has 876 yards and five touchdowns on the year while Revis has 47 tackles, 10 passes defended and two interceptions.

Bucs RB Bobby Rainey vs. Saints LB Curtis Lofton
The Buccaneers offense found success in the run game the first time it faced the Saints this season. Doug Martin racked up 144 rushing yards, averaging five yards per carry. Rainey is now the main back in Tampa, with Martin on injured reserve, and has had success on the ground with two 125 -yard performances, though he has been quieted in recent weeks. This week, he goes up against the Lofton-led Saints run defense that has allowed 114.1 yards per game. Lofton leads the Saints run defense with 119 tackles.

Tampa Bay DT Gerald McCoy & LB Lavonte David vs. New Orleans QB Drew Brees
McCoy, David and the rest of the Bucs linebacker corps had a great showing in the first matchup with the Saints. McCoy and David combined for eight tackles, two tackles for loss, four QB hits and 2.5 sacks. The Bucs also came up with two interceptions, both by linebackers. With the constant pressure, Brees threw for his second lowest completion percentage and his lowest passer rating of the season. The pressure must be applied all day Sunday to keep the veteran quarterback off his game.

Buccaneers DE Adrian Clayborn vs. Saints T Terron Armstead
On the subject of pass rush, Clayborn also came up with a sack in the first meeting against the Saints. Through 15 games, he has five sacks. This week, he will line up opposite Armstead, a rookie left tackle making his second NFL start. The Saints have noted their encouragement with the rookie in his progression and run blocking; however, Panthers RDE Greg Hardy notched three sacks vs. the Saints last week.

Bucs WR Vincent Jackson vs. Saints’ Secondary
Last week, Jackson set a career best in single-season receptions and will look to bump that number even higher against a team he has had great success against in a Buccaneer uniform. In the three times he has faced the Saints as a Bucs player, Jackson averages six receptions and 124.7 yards per game. This is the first time he will face them with Mike Glennon throwing the passes, but with the chemistry they have quickly developed, Jackson could be in line for a lot of targets.