New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5 Bold Predictions

Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Following one of their disappointing losses in recent memory, the (7-2) New Orleans Saints will be seeking to redeem themselves this Sunday afternoon when they travel to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. There they’ll face their long-time divisional rivals, the (3-6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kickoff is at 12:00 P.M. Central and will be broadcast regionally by FOX Sports.

This Sunday’s contest will be the second of two meetings between the two teams this season; the Black and Gold won the first game at the Superdome back in Week #5 by a score of 31-24. The Buccaneers are currently in third place within the NFC South, and although they’ve notably struggled at times this year under first-year head coach Bruce Arians, they’re still a dangerous team capable of winning any game.

With that in mind this morning, Big Easy Magazine presents our 5 Bold Predictions for this Sunday afternoon’s contest:

#5. The Saints Re-Commit Themselves to the Running Game Following Last Week’s Questionable Play-Calling

In last week’s stunning upset loss to the Falcons, the Saints offense only ran the ball a total of 11 times; a run-pass ratio that nearly guarantees a negative result. To that point: in the team’s 53-year history, the Saints are winless (0-42 all-time) when running the ball 15 times or less in a game.

In this Sunday’s contest, however, the Saints are expected to recommit themselves to the running game, especially since they are undefeated (8-0) when superstar and starting #1 RB Alvin Kamara carries the ball 20 times or more. Kamara will rush for over 100 yards, and back-up #2 RB Latavius Murray will chip in an additional 86 yards on the ground, as New Orleans gets back to implementing a much-more balanced offensive attack that they hope will be a key to their success going forward.

#4. With Cornerback Marson Lattimore Likely Out for This Contest, the Saints Defense Has Trouble Against the Buccaneers Top-Notch Wide Receiver Duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin

Third-year starting cornerback Marshon Lattimore is expected to miss this contest with a hamstring injury, which means that the Saints secondary could be in store for a long day trying to slow down the Buccaneers top-notch WR duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Evans has 54 catches for 924 yards and 7 TDs, while Godwin has tallied 60 catches for 840 yards and 6 TDs. Combined, that’s nearly 2,000 receiving yards and 13 TDs so far, easily making them the NFL’s very best receiving tandem.

In Sunday’s contest, both Evans and Godwin will go for over 100 receiving yards each along with a TD reception, as the Buccaneers keep the score close enough to remain within striking distance at winning the game late in the fourth quarter.

#3. Not to Be Outdone, Saints All-Pro WR Michael Thomas Continues His Stellar Season With Another Outstanding Performance

Now in his fourth NFL season, Saints’ All-Pro and starting #1 WR Michael Thomas has achieved “elite-caliber” status, and arguably could now be considered the best wide receiver in the League. Through this season’s nine games so far, the former Ohio State University star leads the NFL in catches (86) and receiving yardage (1,027).

In Sunday’s contest, the 26-year old superstar will put up another 11 catches for 167 yards and 2 TDs, which pushes him even closer to the League’s all-time record for the most receptions in a single season (143).

#2. After Giving Up 6 Sacks Last Week, the Saints Offensive Line Has a ‘Bounce-Back’ Performance

One of the main factors in their stunning 26-9 upset loss to the Falcons was the overall poor performance of the Saints offensive line, which allowed the Atlanta defensive line to sack Saints QB Drew Brees six times, tying a career high for the 19th-year veteran.

To be fair, however, the O-Line clearly suffered from the performance of starting left offensive tackle Terron Armstead, who started last week’s game in spite of enduring flu-like symptoms. Things were made worse by the loss of starting left guard Andrus Peat, who left the game with a broken arm and will be out of action for the remainder of the regular season. Peat will be replaced in the starting line-up by 2nd-year O-lineman Will Clapp.

In Sunday’s game, the Saints O-line will have a bounce-back performance, as they keep the pocket relatively clean for Brees and don’t yield a single sack, which will be a critical factor for New Orleans as they seek redemption for last week’s poor showing.

#1. The Saints Have a Slim 3-Point Lead Heading Into the 4th Quarter, When…

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston finds a wide-open WR Mike Evans for a 35-yard TD pass that gives the Buccaneers the lead by a score of 28-24. The Saints then get the ball back, and put together one of their most-impressive and methodical offensive drives of the entire season thus far, as they hold the ball for nearly nine minutes on 15 plays and score the go-ahead TD on a nifty 12-yard reception for a TD by veteran tight end Jared Cook.

Cook’s score puts the Black and Gold back in front by a score of 31-28 with less than three minutes to play, but Tampa gets the ball back on the ensuing possession with a chance to send the game into overtime with a field goal or grab an outright victory with a TD.

Tampa moves the ball quickly up-field, and as the clock stops for the two-minute warning the Buccaneers are already near mid-field and close to moving into field goal range.

But on the very next play, Winston is INTERCEPTED by Saints rookie defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who returns the ball to the Tampa Bay 31-yard line. From there, the Saints kneel down the ball and run out the remainder of the game clock, as they leave Raymond James Stadium with a redemptive victory after last week’s stunning upset loss.

FINAL SCORE: Saints 31, Buccaneers 28

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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