The unadulterated NFC South rivalry game has arrived. The 2022-2023 NFL slate is underway and in Week Two, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face off against the New Orleans Saints - the first of two matchups versus the divisional foe - on Sunday, September 18 at 1 p.m. ET. The Saints have had the Bucs' number over the previous three seasons, winning all-six regular season games between the two franchises since the arrival of Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles, a streak that has fueled a fire in Tampa Bay. At Caesars Superdome on Sunday afternoon, the Bucs will aim to rewrite the narrative and reclaim their dominance in the NFC South. There are many intriguing matchups and individual performances that could weigh heavily on the final score. Underneath the spotlight in New Orleans, here is a closer look at five Buccaneers to monitor in the Week Two clash.
Saints' defensive end Cameron Jordan rushes almost exclusively off the left edge, meaning he will see a lot of Bucs' right tackle, Tristan Wirfs. Each year on the schedule as these two rivals go head-to-head, this is a matchup to circle in the trenches. Jordan has established himself as one of the most feared defenders in the league, with a plethora of moves in his arsenal that bate tackles. He has recorded at least 7.5 sacks in every season since 2012 and in 2021, Jordan amassed 8.5 sacks in the last four games. Jordan's most notable is a power move that transitions into an arm over, however, he certainly has spin and rip moves that out-leverage opponents. While Jordan, a seven-time Pro Bowl veteran, is a challenging task for any lineman in the league, Wirfs presents Jordan with an arduous test, as well. Wirfs was named a first-team All-Pro selection in 2021 following his second year in the league and is touted as one of the league's elite at the line of scrimmage. He is a technician and is quick out of his stance. Many have witnessed the video of Wirfs jumping out of a pool, a testament to his athleticism. The efficiency of the offense is predicated on the play of the offensive line and Wirfs will be one to monitor on Sunday.
Although Alvin Kamara did not play a prominent role for the Saints in Week One, he is still deemed as one of the most explosive backs in the league with his slash style. Kamara began battling a rib injury against Atlanta, but Dennis Allen did not express concern on his availability for Week Two. Despite his limited time on the field, Kamara was productive on 12 touches, averaging over four yards per carry. Kamara dodges defenders with his suddenness and enhances the offense with his yards-after-catch ability. He is a nuanced route-runner with reliable hands and Devin White will need another strong performance in Week Two. White spearheaded the defensive unit against Dallas, leading the team with eight tackles and 2.0 sacks. He was a menace through the interior, becoming the catalyst in Prime-Time. With his diagnosis skills, speed to the flat and ability to shed blocks and get in on tackles, White will be called upon to contain one of the NFL's best in Kamara. Whether making tackles in space or covering Kamara out of the backfield in man, White will play an integral role in Sunday's showdown.
The Falcons accumulated 4.0 sacks against the Saints in Week One, with 1.5 of those coming from Atlanta defensive tackle, Grady Jarrett. The unit dominated at the point of attack through three quarters against New Orleans and Sunday could present an opportunity for Vita Vea to exploit a weakness. In Week One, Vea registered a sack – an area the coaches harped on during the offseason. Vea plays all three downs, a rarity for a nose tackle of his size, increasing the coach's desire for a higher sack output. In 2022, Vea is on the right track. He eats up double teams and uses an effective bull rush to push the pocket, destroying guards and centers. Although he routinely frees up linebackers to get to the quarterback, this could be a breakout game for Vea.
Leonard Fournette put on a show against Dallas in the season opener, who created for himself with speed and power. He quickly hit his second gear, resulting in 127 yards on the ground. The Saints were the fourth-ranked run defense in 2021 but surrendered 201 yards to the Falcons on Sunday as Cordarrelle Patterson imposed his will. New Orleans will look to get back on track against Tampa Bay, achieving their domineering status by forcing Tom Brady and co. to be one dimensional. In Week One, Byron Leftwich dialed up creative ways to run the football, including receiver stalk blocks, running back chips, tight end backside blocks and offensive linemen pulls. Fournette is certainly the focal point in creating a formidable ground attack, but he will likely play a significant role in another area: keeping Brady clean in the pocket. The Bucs will possibly be without stalwart blindside tackle, Donovan Smith, who is dealing with an elbow injury. Enter, Demario Davis. The Saints' middle linebacker, Davis, is the quarterback of Dennis Allen's unit. He does it all at an elite level, including rushing the passer, disrupting the run and dropping into coverage. Davis is an absolute menace on inside blitzes, crashing the pocket with earth-shattering hits. He has become so dominant against backs in a one-on-one scenario that he is often deemed as a down lineman, making him a problem for an offensive lineman to pick up. Davis is a bulldozer and, on an A, or B-gap blitz, Fournette will find himself in a tough matchup. The Bucs' featured back will draw eyes come Sunday in a multi-faceted role.
A phase in which the Saints have had an advantage over the Bucs in recent years is special teams. On Sunday, the Buccaneers will face one of the most dynamic punt/kickoff return men in the NFL, Deonte Harty (formerly Harris). Field position can sway the outcome of a game, a reality that rarely occupies headlines. In 2021, the Buccaneers ranked 30th in kickoff coverage but changed course in the Week One clash against Dallas. In facing an ascending returner, KaVontae Turpin, the Bucs had success. Rookie tight end Cade Otton played a significant contribution, with three tackles on special teams. Otton stopped Turpin at the 15, 20 and 24-yard line on kickoff return coverage. With elusiveness, Harty poses a threat of breaking the game open at any point. Otton will need another stellar outing on punt and kickoff coverage come Sunday.