Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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2020 Game Preview: Buccaneers-Saints, Week 1

The Buccaneers will be in the NFL spotlight to start the 2020 season as they head to New Orleans for an historic matchup of legendary quarterbacks Tom Brady and Drew Brees

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin the strangest NFL season ever with a game on Sunday in a very strange venue: an empty Louisiana Superdome. It is not only the first regular-season game of the year for the Buccaneers and the host New Orleans Saints, it is the first game of any kind in the 2020 season after the preseason was cancelled amid COVID-19 pandemic precautions.

The Saints and Buccaneers are widely considered the two teams with the best shot to capture the 2020 NFC South title, especially after Tampa Bay added legendary quarterback Tom Brady to lead their charge. To hear Saints Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan assess it, the Buccaneers are "a team that's fighting for second place," and his underlying point is well-taken. The Saints counter Brady with their own legend under center, Drew Brees, and are coming off a 13-3 season and their third straight division title. The first game of the season could go a long way towards determining if the Buccaneers are close to knocking New Orleans from their perch at the top or if they will indeed be fighting for second place.

Obviously, the Brady-Brees matchup will be the top storyline in the Superdome in Week One; more on that below. But the Buccaneers have a lot more to sort out on offense than just how it will run through Brady's mind and right arm. They also have a loaded tight end corps that could likely produce a wide variety of two-TE packages with the likes of Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and Antony Auclair. Meanwhile, the backfield recently added former Jaguar workhorse Leonard Fournette to a group that already included Ronald Jones II and LeSean McCoy. How the handoffs and targets are distributed among those three is probably going to be a mystery that will take several weeks to solve. The Saints' offense will continue to run through max-volume receiver Michael Thomas and versatile running back Alvin Kamara, but the team did add a much more dangerous number-two receiver in the offseason in Emmanuel Sanders.

Just two years ago, the Buccaneers also went to New Orleans to start their 2018 regular-season, and an unforgettable shootout came out of the blue. Tampa Bay won that game, 48-40, in the highest-scoring Week One game in NFL history…and New Orleans has won all three meetings since. The Bucs and Saints may not combine for 88 points again this Sunday, but they're sure to put on a show with Brady and Brees sharing the spotlight.

View photos of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster as it currently stands.

GAME AND BROADCAST DETAILS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) at New Orleans Saints (0-0)

Sunday, September 13, 4:25 p.m. ET

Mercedes-Benz Superdome (capacity: 73,000…no fans will be in attendance)

New Orleans, Louisiana

Television: FOX (Local WTVT Channel 13)

TV Broadcast Team: Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst), Erin Andrews (sideline)

Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station

Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (sideline)

ALL-TIME HEAD-TO-HEAD SERIES

The Buccaneers and Saints were frequent opponents in the '70s, '80s and '90s when the NFL's annual game schedule was heavily influenced by the previous year's standings. The Bucs and Saints became even more acquainted when the league changed its scheduling format to a divisional rotation in 2002, when a 32nd team was added and the NFL realigned into eight four-team divisions. The Buccaneers left their old NFC Central haunt that year to join the new NFC South, which also drew in the Saints, Panthers and Falcons. That meant two games against the Saints every year, of course. The Bucs and Saints had split that season series for four straight years until New Orleans took control with a sweep last year.

Overall, the Saints hold a 35-21 edge in the all-time series, which was first contested in 1977. That initial meeting is famously the first win in franchise history for the Buccaneers, who left New Orleans on December 11 of that year with a 33-14 victory that snapped a franchise-opening 26-game losing streak. The Bucs still had a 3-2 edge in the series by the end of 1982, which would also prove to be the end of the franchise's first run of playoff seasons. The Saints took control of the series by winning six straight in the mid-'80s.

Since they became division mates, the Bucs and Saints have squared off 36 times, 22 of them going in favor of New Orleans. The run of season splits from 2015-18 wasn't just a matter of the team's holding serve on home field advantage. The Buccaneers actually won at New Orleans in 2015 and 2018.

Weirdly, the Saints beat Tampa Bay twice in that first NFC South season in 2002, even though the Buccaneers would win the 2002 division title on their way to victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. Those two games represented half of the Bucs' losses that year. In a minor bit of payback, a 2-12 Bucs team beat a 13-1 Saints team in the penultimate week of the 2009 season, before the Saints would go on to win their first Super Bowl.

The Saints won both games last year by a combined scoring margin of 65-41. The first game in New Orleans, a 31-24 final, appears closer than the 34-17 rematch in Tampa, but Chris Godwin scored a touchdown to make it a one-score with just 13 seconds left in regulation.

NOTABLE CONNECTIONS

• Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians got his first NFL coaching job in Kansas City from 1989-92 but then returned to the college ranks in 1993. His second crack at the NFL would come in New Orleans, where he was the tight ends coach under Head Coach Jim Mora in 1996.

• Jameis Winston, in his first season with the Saints as a backup to quarterback Drew Brees, spent his first five seasons with the Buccaneers after being selected first overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. Winston left Tampa with the franchise's career records for pass attempts (2,548), completions (1,563), passing yards (19,737) and touchdown passes (121). He also set Buccaneers single-season records in all four of those categories in 2019, completing 380 of 626 pass attempts for 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns.

• Tampa Bay QB Ryan Griffin spent his first two seasons (2013-14) in New Orleans after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane. He went back to training camp with the Saints in 2015 but ended up in Tampa on a waiver claim.

• The Bucs came close to losing TE Cameron Brate to the Saints in 2015. Brate had been released from Tampa Bay's practice squad on September 15 so the Bucs could add depth to a banged-up linebacker squad, but before they could bring Brate back he signed with New Orleans. Brate was actually on the Saints' sideline when the Buccaneers played in New Orleans the following weekend, but he didn't say in Louisiana long because Tampa Bay hastily re-signed him to their active roster.

• Buccaneers practice squad WR Cyril Graysonwent to training camp with the Saints in 2019.

• New Orleans S D.J. Swearinger had a stop in Tampa in 2015. The Buccaneers claimed Swearinger off waivers from Houston in May of 2015 and he played in seven games for the team before being waived again in November.

• Saints Assistant Special Teams Coach Phil Galiano held the same post in Tampa under Head Coach Greg Schiano in 2012-13.

SENIOR COACHING STAFFS

• Tampa Bay:

• Head Coach Bruce Arians

• Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin

• Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles

• Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich

• Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong

• New Orleans:

• Head Coach Sean Payton

• Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael

• Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen

• Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi

• Assistant Head Coach/Tight Ends Dan Campbell

KEY 2020 ROSTER ADDITIONS

Buccaneers:

• QB Tom Brady (UFA)

• RB Leonard Fournette (FA)

• TE Rob Gronkowski (T-NE)

• T Joe Haeg (UFA)

• WR Tyler Johnson (5th-round draft pick)

• RB LeSean McCoy (FA)

• C A.Q. Shipley (FA)

• K Ryan Succop (FA)

• RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn (3rd-round draft pick)

• S Antoine Winfield Jr. (2nd-round draft pick)

• T Tristan Wirfs (1st-round draft pick)

Saints:

• LB Zack Baun (3rd-round draft pick)

• FB Michael Burton (UFA)

• LB Anthony Chickillo (FA – on practice squad)

• DE Margus Hunt (FA – on practice squad)

• T James Hurst (FA – currently suspended by commissioner)

• S Malcolm Jenkins (UFA)

• RB Ty Montgomery (FA)

• C Cesar Ruiz (1st-round draft pick)

• WR Emmanuel Sanders (UFA)

• TE Adam Trautman (3rd-round draft pick)

• QB Jameis Winston (UFA)

ADDITIONAL 2020 CHANGES OF NOTE

Buccaneers:

• Though it is noted in the "Roster Additions" section above, it's worth further elaborating on the extremely dramatic change the Buccaneers made at the game's most important position. After five seasons, the team moved on from Jameis Winston, the first-overall pick in the 2015 draft, and filled the starting quarterback spot with the man many consider the G.O.A.T., former Patriot Tom Brady. Brady brings 20 years of experience and six Super Bowl championship rings to Tampa in one of the most notable free agent signings in NFL history. Brady's move to the Buccaneers also prompted former Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski to come out of retirement and he was promptly traded to Tampa Bay for a fourth-round draft pick. Coincidentally, Winston will be there for Brady's Buccaneers debut as he signed with the Saints as an unrestricted free agent.

• Tampa Bay will debut its new uniforms on Sunday in the Superdome. The uniforms are largely inspired by the ones the team wore during its Super Bowl era and overall from 1997 through 2013. Some elements of the uniforms introduced in 2014 remain, such as the sharper, more detailed skull-and-crossed-swords logo and the larger flag on the helmet (though not as large as before). The uniforms debuting in 2020 also include an all-pewter version that is completely unique in team and NFL history.

• The Buccaneers have two new additions to their coaching staff in 2020: Defensive/Special Teams Assistant Keith Tandy and Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach Cory Bichey. Tandy worked at the high school and college levels in 2019, the latter at his alma mater of West Virginia, but he begins his NFL coaching career with the same team that drafted him in 2012. Tandy spent six seasons in Tampa as a safety and special teams standout before finishing his playing career in Atlanta in 2018. Bichey comes to the Buccaneers from Mississippi State University, where he previously worked under current Buccaneers Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Anthony Piroli.

• The Buccaneers used their franchise tag during the 2020 offseason for the first time in eight years. That tag was employed to retain outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, who went from a rotational reserve in Denver to the NFL's 2019 sack leader after signing with the Bucs as an unrestricted free agent. Barrett's 19.5 sacks in his first year with the Buccaneers broke Warren Sapp's single-season franchise record and made him one of the team's top priorities in the offseason. Barrett and the Bucs were unable to reach agreement on a long-term deal during the 2020 offseason, in part due to the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, so Barrett will play on the tag's one-year contract this fall.

Saints:

• Mike Nolan, who served as the Saints' linebackers coach for the past three seasons, left in the offseason to take the offensive coordinator job in Dallas. To fill Nolan's spot, the Saints promoted Michael Hodges, who had been promoted from defensive assistant to assistant linebackers coach in 2019. New Orleans also added Cory Robinson as a defensive assistant; Robinson had previously served a training camp internship with the Saints in 2019.

• Though their starter remains the same, the Saints also made several headlines at the quarterback position in the offseason. After Teddy Bridgewater signed with Carolina to replace Cam Newton as the Panthers' starter, the Saints signed Winston to a one-year deal. Winston will have a chance to be the primary backup to Drew Brees, as Bridgewater was last year, but New Orleans is likely to continue to keep three quarterbacks active on game days. That's because the third one, Taysom Hill, is really a Swiss Army knife of an offensive weapon who has lined up at quarterback, running back, tight end and wide receiver. Perhaps portending an even larger role in the offense in 2020 for Hill, the Saints re-signed him in the offseason to a lucrative two-year contract extension. Brees also signed a new two-year contract in March, though that has become a relatively routine transaction in New Orleans.

• The Saints surprised some pundits in May when they released starting right guard Larry Warford, who was coming off his third straight Pro Bowl campaign. However, the team had used a first-round pick on Michigan center Cesar Ruiz, who could step right in at Warford's spot. If he does, the Saints' excellent offensive line would be comprised completely of players the team has drafted in the first three rounds since 2013, including first-rounders Ruiz, center Erik McCoy and left guard Andrus Peat.

• The Saints went back to the future in their secondary. With starting safety Vonn Bell leaving for Cincinnati via free agency, the team re-signed Malcolm Jenkins, who left the Philadelphia Eagles after six seasons and three Pro Bowls. Jenkins returns to his first NFL home, as he started for the Saints for most of his first five seasons (2009-13). The Saints also saw cornerback Eli Apple, who started 15 games last year after coming over from the Giants in a 2018 midseason trade, leave for the Panthers. Apple could be replaced in the starting lineup by another Jenkins and another former Giant, as Janoris Jenkins arrived as a waiver claim in mid-December of last year.

TOP STORYLINES

Brady vs. Brees in a History-Making Battle – Tom Brady, the Bucs' ageless wonder, heads into his 21st NFL season with 74,571 passing yards and 541 touchdown tosses in his regular-season career. The only possible way he could be on the short end of those numbers in a QB matchup is if he is playing against Drew Brees, another sure-fire Hall-of-Famer playing into his 40s. Brees has 77,416 yards and 547 touchdowns in the regular season. (Adding in postseason numbers gives Brady both marks with ease.) It probably is no coincidence that the NFL schedule-makers chose to send the Buccaneers to New Orleans in Week One after Brady left New England for Tampa Bay. This matchup of QB legends still flying high isn't just the top plotline of the Bucs' Week One contest, it is one of the biggest stories across the entire NFL as the league finally gets its teams back on the field. In fact, this is a historic matchup like the NFL has rarely seen its 100 seasons. Since Brees came to the Saints and began his incredible run of passing productivity in 2006, he and Brady have had three other matchups, in 2009, 2013 and 2017. Brady's Patriots won the most recent two of those three games, but both quarterbacks had one enormous performance in that batch. Brees threw for 371 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in the Saints' 2009 win, while Brady had 447 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a Pats victory three years ago.

The Difference is in the Differential – The Buccaneers had a potent offense in many ways in 2019 and they tied for third in the NFL by scoring a team single-season record 458 points. The team they were tied with: the Saints. Yet New Orleans won the division with a 13-3 record, six wins better than the 7-9 Buccaneers. The problem for Tampa Bay was they also allowed 449 points, 108 more than did the Saints. And a big reason that happened was turnovers, a category in which the Bucs and Saints finished at polar opposites. New Orleans was plus-15 in turnover differential, second only to Brady's Patriots, while the Buccaneers were minus-13, fifth-worst in the league with an NFL leading 41 giveaways. Tampa Bay's 41 turnovers led to a league-high 128 points scored by their opposition. The Saints, on the other hand, only allowed 34 points to be scored off turnovers, the lowest (and best) mark in the league. The Buccaneers obviously believe that the arrival of Brady will help them greatly reduce their giveaways, and that could be the difference in evening things out between these two teams.

Super-Unusual-Dome – The Buccaneers are granted the sheer joy of playing inside the Louisiana Superdome once per fall, and it's usually a deafening experience. While it might not be the absolute loudest venue in the NFL – Kansas City and Seattle are the two main candidates for that throne – it's certainly up there. And that noise is generated by a crowd with quite a bit of…personality. This time, any noise that the players have to overcome will need to be piped into the dome because, as with all but a handful of NFL stadiums, there will be no fans in the stands in the season's first month. Games in front of a sea of empty seats would be a strange experience for NFL players in any city, and the Bucs will deal with the same thing at home in their first two contests at Raymond James Stadium. Will it be harder for players to maintain the same energy level without a buzzing crowd? Will the artificial noise actually be harder to contend with if it has no ebb and flow for three hours? The pandemic and the NFL's great efforts to keep the season going will be creating game atmospheres like never before, and possibly certain hurdles that are impossible to predict.

Rushing to a Conclusion – As much of a pleasure it will be to watch Brady and Brees weave their magic on the same field and in a division game, there are a couple dozen defenders on both sidelines that would like to make it a lopsided affair. With time to throw, it's likely that Brady and Brees will both put up strong numbers, but if either team's pass rush gets into a groove it could be a much harder day for one or the other. The Buccaneers will need to turn things around from 2019 if they're going to be on the right side of that equation. The Bucs' defense didn't sack fill-in QB Teddy Bridgewater once in the Week Five contest in New Orleans last year, and they only got to Brees once in the Week 11 rematch in Tampa. Meanwhile, the Cameron Jordan-led Saints pass rush dropped Jameis Winston six times in the first game and twice more in the second game. The Buccaneers' offensive line will look to be more of a wall in front of Brady this time around, even as it incorporates rookie right tackle Tristan Wirfs into the starting lineup. Meanwhile, Shaq Barrett and the Bucs' pass rush will seek more time in the Saints backfield against a very good offensive line.

SECONDARY KEEP MOMENTUM – Tampa Bay's defense affected a remarkable turnaround in the second half of last season…or perhaps it was more of an inevitable turnaround as the team's stable of very young defenders got more and more comfortable in the defense of first-year coordinator Todd Bowles. While the front seven was fairly consistent throughout the season, the Bucs' great strides came on defense when the secondary came on strong, particularly with the improved play of cornerbacks Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting. The Bucs gave up a lot of passing yards in the season's first half, and while those numbers did come down in the second half the biggest difference was in the splash plays. Tampa Bay led the NFL by a wide margin in passes defensed in the final eight games and also made big improvements in opponent passer rating and completion percentage. Was that second-half rise the start of an even greater ascent in 2020 as those young defenders come into their own in Bowles' aggressive schemes? One could hardly ask for a much tougher task than Drew Brees and company in the Superdome, which makes Week One a great preview for where that defense is headed in 2020.

KEY MATCHUPS

1. Buccaneers OLB Shaq Barrett vs. Saints T Ryan Ramczyk

Last year, Barrett led the NFL with 19.5 sacks and he had at least one in 12 of the Bucs' 16 games. Two of the four shutouts pitched against him were by the Saints, including a Week Five contest that Barrett came into already boasting 9.0 sacks. As noted just above, as a defense the Buccaneers managed just one sack of New Orleans quarterbacks Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater in those two contests, while averaging 3.3 QB takedowns in their other 14 outings. Barrett burst out of the gates last year in his first Bucs season and drew raves throughout this year's training camp for his "slippery" moves. He will be seeking to prove his incredible breakout of 2019 was no fluke, but he can't ask for a much tougher test to start the year than the Saints' line, anchored at right tackle by Pro Bowler Ryan Ramczyk. The 6-6, 315-pound Ramczyk is a problem for every type of pass-rusher and the Saints often rely on their tackles to handle edge-rushers one-on-one. The powerful Ramczyk holds up well against bull-rushers but also has agile feet and the athleticism to combat speed merchants. The Buccaneers plan to move Barrett around their formation more this year to make it harder for opponents to key on him, but he will undoubtedly have some one-on-one battles with Ramczyk on Sunday.

2. Saints WR Emmanuel Sanders vs. Buccaneers CB Sean Murphy-Bunting

New Orleans quarterbacks targeted Michael Thomas an incredible 185 times (11.6 per game) in 2019, a good strategy that led to his single season-record 149 catches for 1,725 yards. It's hard to consider Thomas a key matchup because he's almost certain to get his catches and yards. What may matter most to the Bucs' defense is how they fare against everybody else. Running back Alvin Kamara and tight end Jared Cook were Brees's next two options last year, and New Orleans has not had another receiver crack 500 yards the last two years. But Sanders comes in as Brees's second-best wideout option in years, carrying an average of 66.6 receiving yards per game over the last five years, which is a scary number to add into what the Saints already can do. Last year with Denver and San Francisco, Sanders played 70% of his snaps outside but also got 27% of them inside. The Saints are probably going to use both him and Thomas in the slot at times (Thomas was similar at 75% outside, 24% slot last year). So second-year Bucs corner Sean Murphy-Bunting may encounter the new Saint on the outside on one snap and then move into the slot to cover him on the next. Murphy-Bunting starts the season in the same role he finished last year, as a starter on the outside who goes inside in the more prevalent nickel package. Murphy-Bunting led the Bucs and tied for the NFL rookie lead with three interceptions in 2019.

3. Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski vs. Saints S Malcolm Jenkins

Jenkins probably has vivid memories of the last time his team tried to stop Gronkowski. In Super Bowl LII, Gronkowski used a huge second half to finish with nine catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns against Jenkins' Eagles. Two caveats for Jenkins, though: One, most of Gronkowski's damage that evening came against Corey Graham and Ronald Darby. And, two, Jenkins and the Eagles won the game. Still, Jenkins' second time around as a Saint will start with a Gronkowski challenge, and there's a decent chance those two will be matched up in coverage at some point. In re-signing Jenkins to replace Vonn Bell, Saints Head Coach Sean Payton said Jenkins is a "do-it-all-defensive player" who often plays at the linebacker level and ends up in coverage against both receivers and tight ends. Gronkowski, obviously, has spent his career being a mismatch for just about any opposing defender, whether it be a safety, a linebacker or a cornerback. If Tom Brady decides to rely on his long-time teammate in his first action as a Buccaneer, Jenkins could have his hands full trying to slow the big man down.

4. Saints QB/WR/TE/RB Taysom Hill vs. Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles

Last year, Saints reserve quarterback Taysom Hill threw only six passes (three completed) but also ran 27 times for 156 yards and one touchdown and caught 19 passes for 234 yards and six scores. He followed that with some memorable postseason performances that must have been atop the Saints' minds when they elected to give him that aforementioned lucrative deal. The numbers above don't necessarily scream $10.5 million per year, but that new deal suggests that the Saints plan to use his unique set of skills in even more ways in 2020. They might even work in some tricky plays in which Brees and Hill are on the field together and either one of them could end up throwing a pass. Since Hill lines up all over the place, including the backfield, there isn't one particular Bucs defender who is likely to be the key to containing him. Rather, the Bucs will need to recognize when Hill is in the mix and try to decipher how he is going to be used on that particular play. That's where Bowles and his instructions to the Bucs' defenders during the week leading up to the game will come into play. As the Saints work to confuse opposing defenses with Hill's versatility, Bowles' group is going to try even harder this season to disguise what their post-snap intentions are.

INJURY REPORT

Key:

DNP: Did not participate in practice

LP: Limited participation in practice

FP: Full participation in practice

NL: Not listed on injury report

Buccaneers:

• S Andrew Adams (hamstring) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

• WR Mike Evans (hamstring) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Questionable.

• CB Parnell Motley (hamstring) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

• OLB Jason Pierre-Paul (not injury related) – WEDS: NL; THURS: DNP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

• CB Ryan Smith (ankle) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

• DL Ndamukong Suh (not injury related) – WEDS: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.

Saints:

• DE Marcus Davenport (elbow) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

• G/C Cesar Ruiz (ankle) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

• P Blake Gillikin (back) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: Placed on injured reserve

• S P.J. Williams (hamstring) – WEDS: NL; THURS: LP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Questionable.

WEATHER FORECAST

Domed stadium. Outside: Scattered thunderstorms, high of 88, low of 77, 60% chance of rain, 77% humidity, winds out of the ENE at 10 mph.

GAME REFEREE

Head referee: Jerome Boger (17 seasons, 15 as referee)

BETTING LINE

• Favorite: Saints (-3.5)

• Over/Under: 48.0

INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS (2019 final totals)

Buccaneers-

Points Scored: K Matt Gay, 124

Touchdowns: WR Chris Godwin, 9

Passing Yards: QB Jameis Winston, 5,109

Passer Rating: QB Jameis Winston, 84.3

Rushing Yards: RB Ronald Jones, 724

Receptions: WR Chris Godwin, 86

Receiving Yards: WR Chris Godwin, 1,333

Interceptions: CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, 1

Sacks: OLB Shaq Barrett, 19.5

Tackles: LB Lavonte David, 122

Saints-

Points Scored: K Wil Lutz, 144

Touchdowns: TE Jared Cook/WR Michael Thomas, 9

Passing Yards: QB Drew Brees, 2,979

Passer Rating: QB Drew Brees, 116.3

Rushing Yards: RB Alvin Kamara, 797

Receptions: WR Michael Thomas, 149

Receiving Yards: WR Michael Thomas, 1,725

Interceptions: S Marcus Williams, 4

Sacks: Cameron Jordan, 15.5

Tackles: LB Demario Davis, 111

TEAM STAT RANKINGS

Buccaneers-

Scoring Offense: t-3rd (28.6 ppg)

Total Offense: 3rd (397.9 ypg)

Passing Offense: 1st (302.8 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 24th (95.1 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: 5th (22.1)

Third-Down Pct.: 13th (41.5%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 17th (7.46%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: 4th (64.8%)

Scoring Defense: 29th (28.1 ppg)

Total Defense: 15th (343.9 ypg)

Passing Defense: 30th (270.1 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 1st (73.8 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: 19th (20.7)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 5th (34.4%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 18th (7.08%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-6th (50.0%)

Turnover Margin: 28th (-13)

Saints-

Scoring Offense: t-3rd (28.6 ppg)

Total Offense: 9th (373.9 ypg)

Passing Offense: 7th (265.3 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 16th (108.6 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: 8th (21.7)

Third-Down Pct.: 10th (42.2%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 3rd (4.30%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: 11th (59.7%)

Scoring Defense: 13th (21.3 ppg)

Total Defense: 11th (333.1 ypg)

Passing Defense: 20th (241.8 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 4th (91.3 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: 12th (19.4)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 6th (34.8%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 8th (8.46%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 20th (59.6%)

Turnover Margin: 2nd (+15)

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

• While together with the Patriots for nine seasons (2010-18), Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski hooked up on 78 regular-season touchdown passes. Brady and Gronkowski are together again in Tampa and their next scoring connection will be notable. Their 79th shared touchdown will tie Dan Marino and Mark Clayton for the fourth-most between any two teammates in NFL history.

• Brady has played in 326 career games between the regular season and the playoffs. That's tied with Brett Favre for the most by a quarterback in league history, so Brady will have the record all to himself after the Bucs' first offensive snap on Sunday.

• Tight end Cameron Brate has 27 career touchdown catches, which is tied for the fifth-most in franchise history. The next one he gets will move him from that tie into one for fourth place with former Bucs WR Joey Galloway.

• LB Lavonte David is moving up the Buccaneers' all-time tackles chart at an inexorable pace. He starts his ninth season with 1,006 career stops (an average of 125.8 per campaign), which is just 22 behind Hardy Nickerson, who is third on the list.

• WR Mike Evans already owns the Bucs' career records for catches, receiving yards, touchdown receptions and 100-yard receiving games, and he won't be on the cusp of any other records in Week One. But looking at 2020 from a full-season perspective, the seventh-year wideout will start his pursuit of a very notable NFL record this Sunday. Evans has already joined Moss as the only two players in league history to open their careers with six straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Moss didn't make it to four digits in his seventh season, which means Evans could stand alone by the end of 2020.

NOTABLY QUOTABLE

• Head Coach Bruce Arians on if the Buccaneers need a more reliable rushing attack in 2020: "I think every team does (need a quality run game). We needed one last year, but we kept falling behind by 14 points in the first 10 minutes, so your run game is out the window, especially in the two games against the Saints. That's where we start every week – where we're going to run the football, how we're going to run the football. Upgrading it from last year was really just a matter of eliminating turnovers early in the first quarter."

• LB Lavonte David on if heading into the season opener feels different this time than in year's past: "Oh yeah, of course it feels different. Shoot, all the talent we've got – I think this is the most talented team I've ever been on, and we've had some talented teams come across here before. But with those same things, we had all the expectations – people had all these expectations of us, and we didn't live up to them. The main thing we want to take out from this year is just to learn from that. We've got to take it one game at a time, one day at a time. This is a new team. We haven't done anything yet. We haven't put [any] work out on the field, so we just can't get caught up in the outside expectations. But as far as talent, it's there. The sky is the limit, but we control all that. Week in and week out, we've got to focus on what we have to do and that's going out there and dominating football games."

• RB Leonard Fournette on choosing the Buccaneers from among other options after he was waived by Jacksonville: "I think just me coming to Tampa made perfect sense. I feel like they had all the keys that I needed and vice versa. I can help the team out, and also, they can help me. I think it's probably one of my first seasons running in a six-man box – which is a smart part on me. I made sure all that was in consideration with me coming here. The coaching staff [is full of] great guys I've been knowing. Some of my coaches know them too, so it was a perfect fit for me."

• TE Rob Gronkowski on how the team will keep its energy level up without fans in the stands: "That's what we're going to have to do – we're going to have to create our own energy. We've been doing it the whole time throughout practices, throughout training camp and now this week. We're going to have to feed off each other big time. We're going to have to rely on each other big time. We're going to have to take energy from each other [and] build each other up. That's what it's going to take. It's a huge aspect when there's fans – you can pull energy from them – the cheers, the boos, whatever it is. That's a whole different energy source, I believe. But, that's not the case. They're not going to be there. We have to help each other out, we have to pick each other up and we've got to feed of each other and build momentum to gain energy and help each other out."

• DL Vita Vea on if Bucs' defenders are in a position to improve this year because they have a better understanding of the defense: "For sure. I think that definitely helped a lot coming in under the same scheme as last year because you begin to learn more than what you knew last year. Obviously, you have to learn about your position, so I think that came second nature to the majority of us. I think when that happens, you begin to learn more about the defense itself, the game, the offense and all that."

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