It may be very early, but there is already a first-place showdown on tap in the NFC South.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers capped an eventful first Sunday in the NFL's 2022 season with a dominant 19-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys in prime time at AT&T Stadium. Among the games that came down to the wire earlier in the afternoon was the New Orleans Saints' 27-26 thriller in Atlanta which was won on a 51-yard Wil Lutz field goal with 27 seconds left in regulation. With Carolina losing another tight contest to Cleveland at the same time, end of Week One sees the Bucs and Saints alone atop the division with 1-0 records.
The Saints trailed 26-10 with 13 minutes to play on Sunday but rallied with two Jameis Winston touchdown passes to Michael Thomas and Lutz's final blast. The game-winning drive started with a 40-yard catch by new Saint Jarvis Landry, who finished with seven catches for 114 yards. After a slow start that saw the Saints gain just 104 yards in the first half, the Winston-led offense caught fire in the second half through the pass-catching trio of Landry, Thomas and rookie first-rounder Chris Olave.
The Buccaneers will be looking to reverse recent history when they head into the Superdome on Sunday for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff. The Saints have won seven straight games in the regular-season head-to-head series with Tampa Bay, including the last three in New Orleans. In 2021, the Buccaneers finally broke the Saints' stranglehold on the division title but still lost twice to their rivals, 36-27 in the Superdome and 9-0 at Raymond James Stadium. The Buccaneers did win the most important game in that stretch, a 2020 Divisional Playoff Round matchup in New Orleans that helped propel Tampa Bay to Super Bowl LV, but they will probably need to break the Saints' current victory streak if they want to repeat as NFC South champs.
The Buccaneers got their win in Dallas through a dominant defense that allowed a field goal on the opening drive and then nothing else the rest of the way, plus a ground game led by Leonard Fournette's 127 rushing yards, the most he's had in a game for Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay did come out of the game with some injuries of note, including Chris Godwin's hamstring and Donovan Smith's elbow. Still, it was an encouraging start, one the Bucs hope to build on in their first divisional matchup of the season.
"Coming into training camp, we set a standard for ourselves, goals for ourselves, to play physical football, create takeaways," said linebacker Lavonte Davis. "It was a good start. It was a good start for sure. But we have a lot more football left to play. But it is definitely the standard we are trying to upkeep and we want to see it go from here."