The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) will take on the New Orleans Saints (1-3) on Sunday in the Mercees-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Here are several matchups between individual players and/or certain team units that could go a long way towards determining the game's final outcome:
QB Mike Glennon vs. QB Drew Brees
While they won't actually be on the field at the same time, this is the matchup that will have the most attention going into the game. The Bucs second-year quarterback posted his first 300 -yard game last week and the ninth multi-TD game of his young career. The Saints' defense has allowed 272.5 passing yards per game, and ha surrendered seven TD passes without recording an interception. Drew Brees is averaging just over 300 passing yards per game this season with seven TDs and three picks. In a neat bit of symmetry, the Bucs have also allowed 272.5 passing yards per game with eight touchdowns and one interception. Neither is afraid of a shootout.
LB Lavonte David vs. RB Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas
Even with Mark Ingram out, the Saints have a strong rushing attack, led by the duo of Robinson and Thomas who are averaging five yards per carry this season. The Bucs' defense, led by Lavonte David’s 38 tackles and two forced fumbles, has allowed opposing runners to gain just 3.7 yards per carry, the ninth-best mark in the league. The Bucs held Pittsburgh’s number one-ranked run game to just 85 yards last week. Another strong stand by the defense and impressive performance from David will likely be needed if the Bucs hope to repeat a road upset win.
After holding the Steelers to 85 rushing yards last weekend, Lavonte David and the Bucs' defense now faces Pierre Thomas and the league's 11th-ranked ground game
RB Doug Martin vs. LB Curtis Lofton
After a 40-yard, one-TD performance last week, Doug Martin is still in the hunt for his first real breakout game of the season. The Saints, led by Lofton’s 35 tackles, had been stout against the run over the first three games of the season before allowing 190 rushing yards last weekend against the Dallas Cowboys. Establishing a run game to open up the passing game was the key to the Cowboys’ victory over the Saints. Doug Martin will need to carve his way through this defense to open up opportunities for the entire offense to find a rhythm and control the game.
S Mark Barron vs. TE Jimmy Graham
Whether matched up against a safety, linebacker or cornerback, TE Jimmy Graham is an offensive weapon that will inevitably be in the mix. The Buccaneers have allowed the second-most receptions (29) and fourth-most yards (272) to tight ends so far this season, but only two touchdowns. Jimmy Graham has the sixth-most receiving yards (3,847) and most receiving TDs (39) in the NFL at any position since 2011. Mark Barron and any Buccaneer called upon to line up against Graham will have his hands full guarding Brees’s favorite target.
DEs Michael Johnson & William Gholston vs. OTs Terron Armstead & Zach Strief
The Bucs’ notched five sacks last week, all of them coming from the defensive line, all before halftime. The starting defensive ends will be going up against one of the top offensive tackle combos in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, through four games they have not allowed a sack and have conceded just two QB hits and 11 hurries. The Bucs’ pass rush last week was a big piece of the upset victory. Johnson, Gholston and Co. must replicate that pressure and keep Drew Brees uncomfortable.
WR Vincent Jackson vs. CB Keenan Lewis
An injury to fellow WR Mike Evans will make the passing game that much tougher for the Buccaneers. Last week, the Saints' defense double team Cowboys number one receiver Dez Bryant, limiting him to just three catches for 44 yards. With Evans out, the Saints could replicate this strategy against the Bucs. Jackson has two touchdowns this season, both from Mike Glennon, but has yet to put up more than 51 yards in a game. Jackson will need to fight through whatever the Saints throw at him for the Buccaneers' passing game to succeed.