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2023 Game Preview: Buccaneers-Saints, Week 4

Tampa Bay and New Orleans will battle for at least a share of first place in the NFC South on Sunday in the Superdome, and the Bucs may see a familiar face helming the Saints' offense

game preview

In Week Three, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers engaged in the NFL's only showdown between 2-0 teams. After suffering their first loss by a 25-11 margin to the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles, the Buccaneers are now preparing on a short week for a different type of showdown. This one is for first place.

The Buccaneers will embark on their second round trip of 2023 this weekend, heading to the Big Easy to take on their NFC South rivals, the New Orleans Saints. Both teams won their first two games before falling in Week Three; both teams now have designs on finishing the first "quarter" of the season at 3-1 and holding onto at least a share of first place in what is likely to be hotly contested division title race. (The Atlanta Falcons are also 2-1 after a 2-0 start and get to 3-1 with a win over Jacksonville in London on Sunday.)

The Buccaneers are particularly hungry for a make-right win and an early boost within the division before they head into their Week Five bye.

"Yeah, I mean every game for us mindset-wise is a must win," said quarterback Baker Mayfield. "Now, this early in the season, you're not losing sleep over it, but it's an important one for us. Every game is important for us, but especially the division ones and especially this rivalry, so I can't say enough about it."

The Buccaneers come into the league with a plus-five turnover ratio, second-best in the NFL behind Dallas's plus-six. They were turnover-free in their wins over Chicago and Minnesota and they will try to do the same in the raucous Superdome because they understand how critical it is to win that battle. The Saints are currently plus-two in turnover ratio, tied for ninth-best in the league.

The last time the Buccaneers visited New Orleans, in Week Two of the 2022 season, they used a late-game barrage of takeaways to turn a 3-3 snoozer into a 20-10 win.

"The biggest thing was the turnovers – that's what kind of decides games like that," said Head Coach Todd Bowles, noting that both of the Bucs' wins over the Saints last season were very tight. "It was a tough game both times. They got ahead, it was a tie game in the second game and we came back and won it. We got some turnovers in the first one. When they win the turnover battle, they usually win the ballgame. When we win the turnover battle, usually we come out on top. That'll be something to watch."

That game last September was also a start for Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, one of two he's made against the team that originally drafted him first-overall in 2015. Winston has been in and out of the starting lineup over his three-plus seasons in New Orleans, and it looks likely he'll be back in on Sunday. Starter Derek Carr, the Saints' expensive offseason addition, suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder in the team's loss at Green Bay on Sunday and has been described by Head Coach Dennis Allen as "week-to-week." Bowles said the Bucs' preparations for the Saints' offense won't change even if the man running it does.

"It would have been the same preparing for Carr," he said. "The offense is the offense. We're worried about [running back Alvin] Kamara coming back, as well. We've got to worry about Taysom [Hill]. They've got three good receivers and they've got a couple good tight ends. We've got to worry about everybody. We're not concentrating on Jameis, per se, we're working on the team."

The Saints' offense hadn't really taken off yet with Carr at the helm, ranking 25th in points scored and 20th in yards. The rushing attack should get a boost from the return of Kamara from a three-game suspension, but the Saints need a stronger performance from their offensive line after allowing four sacks in each of the three games they've played so far. The Saints have also struggled in the red zone (as have the Buccaneers), turning only 40% of those drives into touchdowns.

The longest winning streak the Buccaneers have ever recorded in their long-running head-to-head series with the Saints is three games. They are hoping to match that record this Sunday and, more importantly, head into their week off feeling good about their place in the division race.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) at New Orleans Saints (2-1)

Sunday, October 1, 1:00 p.m. ET

Caesars Superdome (capacity: 73,000)

New Orleans, Louisiana

Television: FOX (Local WTVT Channel 13)

TV Broadcast Team: Chris Myers (play-by-play), Robert Smith (analyst), Jen Hale (reporter)

Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station

Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (sideline)


The Buccaneers and Saints were frequent opponents in the '70s, '80s and '90s when the NFL's annual game schedule was heavily influenced by the previous year's standings. They became even better acquainted when the league changed its scheduling format to a divisional rotation in 2002, after a 32nd team was added and the NFL realigned into eight four-team divisions. The Buccaneers left their old NFC Central haunt that year to join the new NFC South, which also drew in the Saints, Panthers and Falcons. That meant two games against the Saints every year, of course.

The Buccaneers own the win in the only postseason meeting between the two teams, as they defeated the Saints in the Divisional Round in 2020 by a 30-20 score in the Superdome on the way to the Super Bowl LV championship. That proved to be the final game in Drew Brees's illustrious career, as he retired a few months later.

Tampa Bay also won the last two regular-season games in the series, both in 2022, as the Bucs got their first season sweep of their division rival since 2007. Before that, the Saints had won seven in a row in the head-to-head battle (not counting the 2020 postseason game) dating back to 2018. Tampa Bay won in the Superdome in Week Two last season, taking a 20-10 decision that was actually still a 3-3 tie going into the fourth quarter. The Bucs' defense generated five turnovers in the last 17 minutes of game play, including a pick-six by safety Mike Edwards. In the Week 13 rematch in Tampa, on the Monday Night Football stage, the Bucs rallied for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to eke out a 17-16 victory. Tom Brady led 91 and 63-yard touchdown drives in the last five minutes of the game, ending the first with a one-yard touchdown pass to Cade Otton and the second with a six-yard scoring connection with Rachaad White with three seconds left in the game.

During their long winning streak in the series, New Orleans scored at least 28 points in five of those seven games, including a 36-27 decision in New Orleans on Halloween last year. The exception was a 9-0 blanking the Saints delivered at Raymond James Stadium last December, marking just the second shutout for either team in the series and the first since a 41-0 win by New Orleans in 2012. The roughest game for the Buccaneers in that stretch came on a Sunday night in November of 2020 at Raymond James Stadium, with the Saints rolling to a 38-3 decision that was easily Tampa Bay's worst game on its way to that Super Bowl title.

Overall, the Saints hold a 39-23 edge in the all-time series, which was first contested in 1977. That initial meeting is famously the first win in franchise history for the Buccaneers, who left New Orleans on December 11 of that year with a 33-14 victory that snapped a franchise-opening 26-game losing streak. The Bucs still had a 3-2 edge in the series by the end of 1982, which would also prove to be the end of the franchise's first run of playoff seasons. The Saints took control of the series by winning six straight in the mid-'80s.

Since they became division mates, the Bucs and Saints have squared off 42 times, 26 of them going in favor of New Orleans. The two teams had a run of season splits from 2015-18, and it wasn't just a matter of the each club holding serve on home field advantage. The Buccaneers actually won at New Orleans in 2015 and 2018, as noted above. That 2018 game was a 48-40 decision that set an NFL record for most combined points in a Week One contest.

Weirdly, the Saints beat Tampa Bay twice in that first NFC South season in 2002, even though the Buccaneers would win the 2002 division title on their way to victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. Those two games represented half of the Bucs' losses that year. In a minor bit of payback, a 2-12 Bucs team beat a 13-1 Saints team in the penultimate week of the 2009 season, before the Saints would go on to win their first Super Bowl. The Saints also won both games in 2020 in the regular season, in another Buccaneers championship campaign.


· Senior Advisor to the General Manager Bruce Arians got his first NFL coaching job in Kansas City from 1989-92 but then returned to the college ranks in 1993. His second crack at the NFL would come in New Orleans, where he was the tight ends coach under Head Coach Jim Mora in 1996.

· Among the many coaching stops for Buccaneers Assistant Coach Tom Moore over more than four decades in the NFL was one season as the Saints' running backs coach in 1997.

· Saints quarterback Jameis Winston spent his first five seasons with the Buccaneers after being selected first overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. Winston left Tampa with the franchise's career records for pass attempts (2,548), completions (1,563), passing yards (19,737) and touchdown passes (121).

· Joe Woods, in his first season as the Saints' defensive coordinator, began his NFL coaching career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after more than a decade in the college ranks, serving as the team's defensive quality control coach from 2004-05.

· Fred McAfee, the Saints' vice president of player engagement, played 16 years in the NFL as a running back and that included a very brief stop with the Buccaneers in 1999. McAfee appeared in one game for Tampa Bay that season.

· Saints Assistant Special Teams Coach Phil Galiano held the same post in Tampa under Head Coach Greg Schiano in 2012-13.


Tampa Bay:

· Head Coach Todd Bowles

· Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin

· Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales

· Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers

· Pass Game Coordinator/Inside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote

· Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong

New Orleans:

· Head Coach Dennis Allen

· Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael

· Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods

· Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi



· LB SirVocea Dennis (fifth-round draft pick)

· OLB Yaya Diaby (third-round draft pick)

· TE Payne Durham (fifth-round draft pick)

· RB Chase Edmonds (FA)…currently on injured reserve

· G Matt Feiler (FA)

· DL Greg Gaines (UFA)

· CB Josh Hayes (sixth-round draft pick)

· S Christian Izien (UDFA)

· WR Rakim Jarrett (UDFA)

· DL Calijah Kancey (first-round draft pick)

· G Cody Mauch (second-round draft pick)

· QB Baker Mayfield (UFA)

· K Chase McLaughlin (UFA)

· S Ryan Neal (FA)

· WR Trey Palmer (sixth-round draft pick)

· RB Sean Tucker (UDFA)


· WR Lynn Bowden (FA)

· DT Bryan Bresee (first-round draft pick)

· QB Derek Carr (FA)

· DE Isaiah Foskey (second-round draft pick)

· C Max Garcia (FA)

· S Jordan Howden (fifth-round draft pick)

· S Lonnie Johnson (UFA)

· QB Jake Luton (FA)

· RB Kendre Miller (third-round draft pick)

· TE Foster Moreau (FA)

· WR A.T. Perry (sixth-round draft pick)

· G Nick Saldiveri (fourth-round draft pick)

· DT Khalen Saunders (UFA)

· DT Nathan Shepherd (UFA)

· RB Jamaal Williams (UFA)



  • Todd Bowles enters his second season as the Bucs' head coach with a new offensive coordinator on his staff. Former Seahawks Quarterbacks Coach Dave Canales takes over for Byron Leftwich, who spent four seasons in that role, the first three under Head Coach Bruce Arians. Canales helped quarterback Geno Smith go from journeyman to the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year in 2022 and has roots in the Kyle Shanahan/Sean McVay systems.
  • The Buccaneers made a number of other changes to Bowles' staff after the 2022 season, bringing in George Edwards (a former Vikings defensive coordinator) to coach outside linebackers, Brad Idzik to tutor wide receivers, and Skip Peete to take over the running backs room. David Raih and Jordan Somerville also joined the team as senior offensive analyst and assistant quarterbacks coach, respectively. With the arrival of Edwards, defensive Pass Game Coordinator Larry Foote switched from the outside linebacker room to the inside linebacker group. Thaddeus Lewis, who spent the previous two seasons as an assistant wide receivers coach, was promoted to quarterbacks coach.
  • After winning a Super Bowl and two division titles over the past three years, the Buccaneers saw an era come to an end when quarterback Tom Brady announced his retirement in late January. To move on at the game's most critical position, the Buccaneers brought in former number-one overall draft pick Baker Mayfield to compete with 2021 second-round selection Kyle Trask. Former Ram John Wolford was also added for experienced depth in the quarterback room. Mayfield was named the opening-day starter by Bowles between the second and third preseason games in August.
  • After largely "keeping the band together" for the 2021-22 seasons after their Super Bowl LV victory, the Buccaneers parted ways with a number of prominent players in 2023. Donovan Smith, who occupied the Bucs' starting left tackle spot for eight seasons, was released in March, as were tight end Cameron Brate, running back Leonard Fournette and kicker Ryan Succop. Safety Mike Edwards, quarterback Blaine Gabbert, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, safety Keanu Neal, defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches, wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tackle Josh Wells all found new homes in free agency while defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, wide receiver Julio Jones, outside linebacker Carl Nassib, tight end Kyle Rudolph and safety Logan Ryan were not re-signed.


  • The Saints employed a pair of co-defensive coordinators in Dennis Allen's first year as the head coach in 2022, with Kris Richard and Ryan Nielsen sharing that role. However, Neilsen is now the Atlanta Falcons' defensive coordinator and Richard was dismissed, so the role was consolidated back into one with the hiring of Joe Woods. Allen remains the Saints' defensive signal-caller. New Orleans made a few other changes to its coaching staff, hiring Todd Grantham to run the defensive line, Marcus Robertson to handle the secondary and Clancy Barone to tutor the tight ends.
  • One of the additions noted above was the big-dollar acquisition of former Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. With Carr the unquestioned starter, Jameis Winston could have sought a new opportunity elsewhere in free agency but he elected to re-sign with the Saints, citing a fondness for New Orleans and the team's fanbase. The Saints also drafted Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener in the fourth round, but Haener was suspended for the first six games of the season for violating the league's PED policy. The team currently lists jack-of-all-trades Taysom Hill as the third quarterback on its depth chart.
  • As has been the case for the past several offseasons, the Saints couldn't prevent the losses of several of their core players in free agency due to a tricky salary cap situation. The defensive front seven was hit particularly hard, with defensive end Marcus Davenport, defensive tackles David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle, outside linebacker Kaden Elliss and safety Justin Evans all getting contracts with new teams. Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver/kick returner Deonte Harty also left in free agency.
  • New Orleans started the season without their top running back, as Alvin Kamara served a three-game suspension due to his involvement in a fight in Las Vegas in February of 2022. The Saints moved offseason acquisition Jamaal Williams, the former Detroit Lion, into their starting role but Williams suffered a hamstring injury in Week Two and missed last weekend's game against Green Bay. However, Kamara is back on the active roster for Week Four, joining rookie third-rounder Kendre Miller and Tony Jones as potential options in the backfield against Tampa Bay.



DNP: Did not participate in practice

LP: Limited participation in practice

FP: Full participation in practice

NL: Not listed

Buccaneers *:

  • CB Carlton Davis (toe) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP
  • CB Jamel Dean (neck/shoulder) WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP
  • LB SirVocea Dennis (hamstring) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP
  • DL Calijah Kancey (calf) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP
  • CB Derrek Pitts (hamstring) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP
  • DL Vita Vea (pectoral) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP
  • LB Devin White (foot) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP

* The Buccaneers conducted a walk-through on Wednesday. The practice report for that day is an estimation.


  • CB Paulson Adebo (hamstring) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP
  • QB Derek Carr (right shoulder) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP
  • TE Jimmy Graham (rest) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: Removed from report.
  • S Jordan Howden (finger) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP
  • TE Foster Moreau (ankle) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: LP
  • T Ryan Ramczyk (rest) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: Removed from report.
  • G Cesar Ruiz (concussion) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP


Domed stadium. Outside: High of 87, low of 74, 4% chance of rain, 75% humidity, winds out of the E at 10 mph.


Head referee: Shawn Hochuli (10th season, sixth as referee)


· Favorite: Saints (-3.0)

· Over/Under: 40.5



Points Scored: K Chase McLaughlin, 20

Touchdowns: WR Mike Evans, 3

Passing Yards: QB Baker Mayfield, 636

Passer Rating: QB Baker Mayfield, 96.0

Rushing Yards: RB Rachaad White, 150

Receptions: WR Mike Evans, 17

Receiving Yards: WR Mike Evans, 297

Interceptions: S Christian Izien, 2

Sacks: OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, 2.0

Tackles: S Ryan Neal, 25


Points Scored: K Blake Grupe, 23

Touchdowns: RB Tony Jones/WR Rashid Shaheed, 2

Passing Yards: QB Derek Carr, 636

Passer Rating: QB Derek Carr, 85.2

Rushing Yards: TE Taysom Hill, 91

Receptions: WR Chris Olave, 22

Receiving Yards: WR Chris Olave, 302

Interceptions: CB Paulson Adebo/S Lonnie Johnson/CB Marshon Lattimore/S Marcus Maye, 1

Sacks: DE Curtis Granderson, 2.5

Tackles: LB Pete Werner, 26



Scoring Offense: 20th (19.3 ppg)

Total Offense: 25th (284.3 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 27th (78.0 ypg)

Passing Offense: 20th (206.3 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: t-27th (15.7)

Third-Down Pct.: t-9th (45.2%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 6th (3.23%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: 30th (37.5%)

Scoring Defense: 6th (19.7 ppg)

Total Defense: 22nd (359.0 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 12th (103.0 ypg)

Passing Defense: 24th (256.0 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-15th (19.7)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 30th (51.6%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 13th (8.18%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-3rd (33.3%)

Turnover Margin: 2nd (+5)


Scoring Offense: 25th (17.7 ppg)

Total Offense: 20th (314.7 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 21st (93.3 ypg)

Passing Offense: 15th (221.3 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: t-24th (17.7)

Third-Down Pct.: 16th (39.1%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 26th (11.54%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: t-27th (40.0%)

Scoring Defense: 9th (16.7 ppg)

Total Defense: 9th (288.0 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 10th (99.7 ypg)

Passing Defense: 8th (188.3 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-5th (17.0)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 9th (31.8%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 16th (7.21%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-3rd (33.3%)

Turnover Margin: t-9th (+2)


  • Wide receiver Mike Evans found the end zone for the third time in as many games last Monday night, giving him 84 career touchdown receptions to tie for the 21st most in NFL history. One more and he would move up into the group tied for 18th, which consists of Lance Alworth, Hines Ward and Paul Warfield. Evans also could tie Saints tight end Jimmy Graham for 17th place on that list with two touchdowns on Sunday, though Graham obviously could increase his own total as well.
  • Evans has a team-high 297 receiving yards through three weeks. If he gets 130 more on Sunday in the Superdome, that would give him 427 on the season and break his own team record (426 in 2018) for the most receiving yards through the first four games of the season.
  • Wide receiver Chris Godwin needs one more touchdown catch to tie Ring of Honor member Jimmie Giles in terms of total TDs scored and tie Cameron Brate for touchdown receptions. Godwin currently has 33 touchdowns on his resume (32 receiving and one rushing), while Giles has 34, all receiving, and Brate has 33, all receiving.
  • The Buccaneers swept both games against New Orleans in 2022. A victory on Monday would give them three in a row against the Saints, which would match their longest winning streak ever in the head-to-head series.


  • Head Coach Todd Bowles on the return of Saints running back Alvin Kamara: "He's tough. He's one of the toughest backs in the league. He can run it and he can catch it, he can slash, he can play receiver, he can do a lot of things. He can run up the middle, he can run outside. It's going to be a chore because he's the most athletic of all the running backs they have. He presents a problem."
  • Quarterback Baker Mayfield on what it would mean to head into the bye week with a 3-1 record: "Before the extra game in the season, you split it up into the four quarters with four games. So, for us, going into this Bye Week with a 3-1 record would be tremendous. Obviously, we would've liked to be 4-0, but it's on to the next one. Three and one is the best we can do so we need to have our eyes set on that."
  • Wide receiver Chris Godwin on playing a Saints defense that utilizes a lot of man-to-man coverage: "It's always fun whenever you get to go against a team that wants to play man coverage. Like I said it's man to man. You know, it's like may the best man win. Typically, whenever you have two really good teams, you're going to be trading blows. At the end, it's whoever capitalized at the end of the game. It's always a fun time whenever we get to play the Saints. You go into that stadium, and you know what you're getting into. You know those fans have the stadium rocking, and there's no windows in there. It's like you go in and they lock the doors behind you, like it's just you and your guys, you're going to battle, and you're like let's figure it out."
  • Bowles on if there is value in the Bucs continuing to run the ball even when the results have not been as good as hoped: "As long as it's not a blowout, yes, [there] is value in it. If you get behind, you've got to throw the ball, obviously. But the value in the carries [is] it takes time off the clock, it gives the defense a rest, hopefully it wears the other team down some to where you can do some play action things [and] things necessary like that. It doesn't necessarily go in the big runs, it's almost like time of possession, the wear-down process and the heat in Tampa, giving the defense a rest – it's all inclusive. You want to be better in the run game, you want to break some runs. It's Week 3, you want [to win] a game any way possible. If we can win a game throwing the football, I'll take it; if we can win a game running the football, I'll take it."
  • Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales on if the Bucs' offense is being aggressive enough: "We're taking a good amount of shots. The biggest thing is how many balls over 40 air yards are we averaging per game? We're right around – with the number of plays – we're right around what you want to be. If you look league-wide, we're being able to do that. Getting more turns is really the deal. We didn't have enough plays to take more plays but we put the ball down the field a good amount. Again, the one thing I wasn't going to do against a really good front is think that we could also just drop back and put our O-line into pass protection mode right away like that, especially with our defense playing as well as they were early on in the game."
  • Linebacker Lavonte David on if it helps to know potential Saints starting quarterback Jameis Winston well: "You never know. They've got a whole different scheme over there and they do a lot of different things with different people. It's definitely going to be fun going against Jameis. Obviously, playing with him for five years, we know what type of competitor he is. We know he's going to try to light us up and beat us the best way he can. It's definitely going to be a challenge for us but it should be a fun game."
  • Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers on the threat posed by Saints wide receiver Rashid Shaheed: "We were looking at him in in the run game – he's the jet sweep guy, he's the reverse guy and when he lines up out there, he's going deep. He's a problem. With what they've accumulated together, they [are] a very, very formidable opponent."

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