-The Buccaneers' path to the Super Bowl won't be the one of least resistance. They will travel to New Orleans this Sunday to face their division rivals in the Superdome for the Divisional round. The Saints swept the regular season series with the Bucs for the second year in a row in 2020. Head Coach Bruce Arians was asked if that afforded them a certain amount of confidence going into this postseason matchup and he countered with this:
"I don't think there's any more swag than our offense has – I guarantee that," Arians said. "You can't get caught up in the finger pointing and the trash talking – you've got to play football. The Bears' young receiver got caught up in it and got thrown out of the game. It's going to happen – that's who they are. You just have to deal with it and win your one-on-one matchups. They have a ton of swagger and they should."
New Orleans cruised to a 12-4 record during the regular season, picking up where they left off a year prior with a record of 13-3. Unfortunately for the Bucs, they were still getting their sea legs this season, especially offensively, both times they played the Saints. They opened the season on the road with them, lest we forget. Now, Tampa Bay will be the ones marching in again looking to avenge their regular season losses, and this time the two teams will have their full arsenals with them.
"I think it depends when you play them," Arians said of the challenge beating the Saints presents. "If it's September and October, a lot of things change in a season. Players are in, players are out, injuries, all those type of things. The familiarity with the players – Marshon Lattimore knows Mike Evans – who's going to win that battle? Same thing [with] Tristan Wirfs and Cam Jordan – it comes down to one-on-one battles of guys who know each other. Who's going to make those game-changing plays in this game?"
-The Buccaneers rank sixth heading into the Divisional Round in NFL.com's Divisional Power Rankings according to Dan Hanzus. They are sandwiched between their upcoming opponent, the Saints, who are listed at five, and the Cleveland Browns, who trounced the Steelers on Sunday night to advance in the AFC.
"Chase Young did the talking. Tom Brady did the work. Brady was sharp in his 42nd career playoff game -- and first without Bill Belichick -- throwing for 381 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-23 win over the Washington Football Team," wrote Hanzus. "Brady is in a groove right now: Since Tampa Bay's Week 13 bye, the veteran has thrown 14 touchdowns against a single interception over five straight wins."
-Inside linebacker Devin White and defensive lineman Steve McLendon were reinstated from the reserve/COVID-19 list. In a bizarre twist of fate, Kevin Minter, who filled in for White in Washington, was placed on the list just a short time later. Therefore, it seems that the Bucs will be thin at inside linebacker depth going into New Orleans but they will have both starters available in White and Lavonte David.
Minter had filled in admirably against the Football Team. But the combination of White being out along with McLendon, left the defense a little vulnerable. McLendon is essential for the pass rush in that he allows for a better interior rotation. He's stout against the run too. Getting the 11-year NFL vet back will boost the defense, too.
And while White couldn't be on the field during the Wildcard round, he was with his teammates in spirit – and on social media. That brings us to the…
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