Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 Bucs to Watch vs. New Orleans

WR Mike Evans is just 54 yards away from his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season and the Bucs’ linebacker corps will play a key role in stopping the Saints’ two-headed ground game.

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  1. WR Mike Evans Wide receiver Mike Evans needs just 54 yards to amass 1,000 for the season. While that may seem like a predictable stat for one of the best wideouts in the league, it would mark his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season after starting his career. That is a very unique stat in that only two other players in NFL history have done the same: A.J. Green and Randy Moss. Not bad company to keep for Evans. The 6'5" receiver caught a team-leading six passes for 107 yards on Sunday against the Panthers. He's been more productive as of late, catching five passes for 79 yards and a touchdown the week before on Monday night against Atlanta. Evans has been the Bucs' leading pass catcher this year with 66 grabs and knows he will be quarterback Jameis Winston's frequent target come this Sunday against the Saints, especially with a milestone like that on the line. 2. QB Jameis Winston Since returning from injury, quarterback Jameis Winston has an average QB rating of 114.5. He is 95-for-132 in passing attempts for an impressive completion rate of 72 percent. His 302-yard passing average per game ranks first in the league during that span as well. In the game at Carolina last week, he recorded a 131.5 passer rating, throwing for 367 yards and a touchdown. It was his second-best passer rating of his career. It's safe to say Winston is feeling healthy and it shows. Winston is far from satisfied given the teams' record, and will look to continue his high-level performance against a division-rival. The Bucs are positioned in the spoiler role and can prevent the Saints from clinching the division with a win this Sunday.

A look back at all of the match-ups between the Buccaneers and the Saints.

  1. The Bucs' linebackers The Saints have two Pro Bowl running backs in Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Rookie Kamara has 684 yards rushing on the season, but also has 742 yards receiving for the season – a deadly dual-threat. Kamara broke out for 84 yards receiving, his most of the season through Week 9, against the Bucs the last time around and had 152 all-purpose yards. Linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David will be key components in preventing a repeat of that performance at home. Alexander has 25 tackles and four passes defensed in three career games against New Orleans. David combined for 87 tackles, 11 for loss, nine passes defensed, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 11 career games against the Saints. Signs point to Lavonte David playing again this week and the Bucs will need him and Kwon Alexander to cover both inside and outside to be effective against the Saints ground game. 4. DT Gerald McCoy One again defensive tackle Gerald McCoy will be gunning for Saints' quarterback Drew Brees. McCoy and Brees have a long-standing relationship. They've trained together in the offseason for years and McCoy has admitted to the fact that more often than not, Brees is able to elude him. In fact, McCoy has only registered 2.5 sacks against the New Orleans signal caller. McCoy does have 28 tackles against the Saints in his career though, his second-highest mark against any opponent. Defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. was the only one to get a sack on Drew Brees when the teams played earlier in the season, so McCoy will undoubtedly be looking for one of his own this time around. 5. WR Chris Godwin **The Penn State-product has been seeing more action with injuries at the receiver position. In last Sunday's contest against Carolina, the rookie had three catches for 98 yards, including a 70-yard reception that was the second-longest by a Bucs rookie ever. He's been a clutch performer all year despite seeing limited action. He was instrumental in the game-winning drive at Miami in Week 11, where he caught two crucial catches for 38 yards on the game-winning drive. He is only progressing as a receiver and will look to take advantage of the reps he does get, which should come this week against the Saints.
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