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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

6 Key Matchups for Buccaneers vs. Saints

Key Matchups: A pair of highly-touted rookies will do battle Sunday, as CB Vernon Hargreaves will be tested by Michael Thomas, the NFL's leading rookie receiver.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5), winners of four straight, get back to divisional play on Sunday when they welcome the 5-7 New Orleans Saints to town. Here are a few individual matchups that could play a key role in determining the outcome of this Week 14 contest:

Buccaneers WR Mike Evans vs. Saints CBsEvans ranks in the top five in the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and TD catches this season and will go up against a Saints defense that is allowing the second-most passing yards per game. Saints CBs Sterling Moore and Delvin Breaux will have their hands full with Evans, which could present opportunities for the other Bucs pass-catchers.


Buccaneers T Donovan Smith vs. Saints DE Cameron Jordan **The Bucs offensive line has allowed just two sacks in their last three games. The group has another tall task against the pass rush of Cameron Jordan, who has five sacks on the year and two 10+-sack seasons in his career. Rushing off the right side, he'll square off against Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith, who is charged with protecting Winston's blind side.

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston vs. Saints S Kenny VaccaroWinston has a passer rating of 90+ in his last five outings, with nine touchdowns to just three interceptions in that timeframe. The Buccaneers have seen a number of injuries to receivers this year, but Winston has succeeded at spreading the ball around, connecting with nine different Bucs last week. Vaccaro leads his team with two interceptions and has a sack and two forced fumbles this season.

BUY: BUCCANEERS VS. SAINTS TICKETSSaints WR Michael Thomas vs. Buccaneers CB Vernon HargreavesWhile it remains to be seen whether the two will actual see a lot of each other head-to-head, a rookie CB vs. WR matchup is always something to watch. Thomas leads his team and all rookie WRs in receptions, receiving yards and TD grabs. Hargreaves has 59 tackles in his first season, and he has added six passes defensed, one of which led to David's Week 13 interception for a touchdown.


Saints QB Drew Brees vs. Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy **McCoy leads all NFL DTs with seven sacks on the year. He is just three away from being the first Buccaneer to post double-digit sacks in a season since Simeon Rice in 2005. A strong pass rush will help slow New Orleans' explosive offense. Brees has been sacked just 19 times (seventh fewest) and leads the NFL in passing yards and TDs.

Saints RB Mark Ingram vs. Buccaneers LB Lavonte DavidIngram is averaging an impressive 5.3 yards per carry so far this season and the Bucs will need to slow him down to make the Saints' offense one-dimensional. LB Lavonte David will play a big role in stopping that attack. David has four forced fumbles this season, two in the last three games. He recovered one and has added an interception that he returned for a touchdown last week.

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