In front of a national audience on Monday night, the 5-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers will square off with their division nemesis, the 4-8 New Orleans Saints. Playoff aspirations hang in the balance as both clubs will look to hit their stride in December. The NFC South is up for grabs and the Bucs and Saints will seek to usurp the competition. Tampa Bay will aim for a season sweep of New Orleans – whom they defeated in Week Two – and for reinvigoration on offense. Meanwhile, the Saints will strive for redemption after being shut out by the 49ers' defense in Week 12. Monday night's battle in prime time will have postseason implications. After back-to-back wins against the Rams and Seahawks, the Bucs had appeared to find their rhythm; however, a loss to the Browns last week became a harsh reality check for the embattled unit. Can Tampa Bay bounce back against the Saints? After a week of preparation, here is what Monday night's meeting comes down to:
4 Stats that Matter
- -14. the Saints rank last in the NFL with a -14 turnover ratio. New Orleans has produced just seven takeaways this year, with Tyrann Mathieu boasting the team's sole two interceptions. The Saints have coughed up the ball 21 times in 2022, a league-high. Winning the turnover battle was the key to the Bucs' victory in Week Two over New Orleans.
- 822. Saints' rookie first-round receiver Chris Olave leads all rookies in receptions (56) and receiving yards (822) in 2022. He has accumulated 40-plus receiving yards in each of his 11 games played (tied for most in the NFL). Olave is the club's vertical threat, quickly getting north with speed.
- 94.6. Alvin Kamara has career lows in 2022 with 94.6 yards per game, three scrimmage touchdowns and four turnovers. The Saints rank last in the NFL since Week Nine with 57.0 rush yards per game. New Orleans will strive to get their run game back on track against Tampa Bay.
- 18.2. The Buccaneers have averaged 18.2 points per game in 2022, the sixth-fewest in the NFL. That is the lowest for a Tom Brady-led team (2008 season excluded from metric). Tampa Bay will search to find their identity as an offense, beginning with the Week 13 clash on a national stage.
3 Lineup Notes
- For the Buccaneers, Head Coach Todd Bowles confirmed that right tackle Tristan Wirfs will not play on Monday night. He suffered a high-ankle sprain in the team's overtime loss to the Browns and is continuing to progress. Josh Wells will replace Wirfs in the lineup in Week 13; he previously has served as the Bucs' primary swing tackle over the past four seasons.
- Several additional players are working through ailments, including Cameron Brate (illness), Mike Edwards (hamstring), Vita Vea (foot) and Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle). However, with the exception to Wirfs, Bowles assessed that every other player is potentially in play for Monday night's divisional clash at Raymond James Stadium. Brate has dealt with an undisclosed illness throughout the week and the staff will continue to monitor his fluids to determine Monday's availability.
- For the Saints, 15 players were listed on Saturday's final injury report. Among those, four were ruled out including safety J.T. Gray (hamstring), tight end Juwan Johnson (ankle), defensive end Payton Turner (ankle) and safety P.J. Williams (knee). Seven were listed as questionable featuring Marshon Lattimore (abdomen), defensive tackle Malcolm Roach (illness), cornerback Bradley Roy (concussion), defensive tackle Kentavius Street (illness), linebacker Pete Werner (ankle) and receiver Kevin White (illness).
2 Challenges Presented by the Saints
The Saints' offense is loaded with a talent-filled nucleus starring Alvin Kamara, Taysom Hill, Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry. With Head Coach Dennis Allen and Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael leading the charge, personnel management and formation movement are a main focus. With the dynamic ability of both Kamara and Hill, the Saints use them interchangeably to keep defenses off-kilter. With a desired balanced approach, New Orleans uses a variety of trick plays, motion, power sweeps, screens and draws to generate yards after catch. When the Saints can run the ball efficiently or have success out of the flat forcing defenses to allocate resources, that opens up play-action, providing Andy Dalton with time to survey the field and throw a deep bomb to Chris Olave in a one-on-one scenario. Kamara can run inside, outside, and split-out wide with his pass-catching skills. He has established himself as one of the most explosive backs in the league, utilizing vision and suddenness to juke defenders. Hill, the do-it-all chess piece, can line up at quarterback, tight end, slot receiver, or as a wideout. When he steps on the field, defenses have to gauge if Hill will run, pass, block or catch – making him a nightmare on gameday. Hill is often featured as a read-option weapon and possesses a strong arm, along with elite running ability. The Bucs will have to maintain gaps and be eye-disciplined on Monday night to try and limit his effectiveness. Olave adds a vertical threat to the mix, with top-end speed to create separation from defenders. He can sit on underneath routes and can adjust to the ball in flight. With his burst at the top of routes, the Bucs' secondary will have to be prepared for the burner in order to prevent the big play over the top.
They say, "football is won in the trenches" and Monday night could very well personify that sentiment. The Bucs' offensive line has allowed 17 sacks in 11 games, however, gave up three to Myles Garrett and co. last week in Cleveland. All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs will be sidelined due to a high ankle sprain suffered in the Week 12 overtime loss, thrusting Josh Wells into action. Wells will face one of the league's best in perennial Pro-Bowl veteran Cameron Jordan. Jordan overwhelms tackles with an arsenal of pass rush moves and finesse counters. He consistently demands double/triple teams and although his stats may not wow in 2022 (5.5 sacks), he creates advantageous one-on-one matchups for teammates to reach the quarterback. Cornerstone off-ball linebacker Demario Davis has a team-high 6.5 sacks, linebacker Kaden Elliss has 4.5 and defensive tackle David Onyemata has 3.5. Davis, a player Brady has vocally recognized, contains the run sideline-to-sideline with lateral agility and has burst in short area to close on the quarterback. Additionally, Onyemata has power and pushes blockers back with violent hands. The Buccaneers will need a stout performance at the point of attack on Monday, with receivers, running backs and tight ends assisting on crack/stalk blocks if needed.
1 Key Thought from Head Coach Todd Bowles
On series rivalry with the Saints:
"Whoever wins the turnover battle usually wins this ballgame. When they have more than us, they win; when we have more than them, we've won. That's really it – it's two tough teams going at it. They know us, we know them. [It's] whoever makes the most mistakes."