PAPER CHAMPS? “Trash Talk” and Hype Heating Up for Saints vs. Buccaneers Opener

Photo Credit; New Orleans Saints on Twitter (Original via Jonathan Bachman)

As of this morning (Saturday, July 25th), the start of the upcoming 2020 NFL Season for the New Orleans Saints is exactly 7 weeks away from tomorrow, a total of 50 more days. That’s when the Black and Gold will host their NFC South Division rivals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (and their new starting QB, 6-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady and company) at the Superdome in what will be a very highly-anticipated match-up.

However when they do so, it will come on the heels of an unprecedented level of “trash talk” this past off-season between the fan-bases of the two teams: members of the ‘Who Dat Nation’ that feel their team should be favored to win a 4th straight division championship; and fans of  ‘Bucs Nation’who even though their team hasn’t been to the Playoffs in the past 13 years — believe that the addition of Brady not only makes them division favorites, but now also a top favorite to win the Super Bowl as well.

Fueling the fire of the “trash talk” even further, have been members of the National Media that cover the NFL; whose unrelenting hype of the Buccaneers’ off-season addition of Brady and his fellow former New England Patriots teammate Rob Gronkowski, have reached epic proportions over the past several months.

And with sports fans across the country having been mostly stuck inside their homes watching TV during the on-going COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic, that very same hype by a rather wide variety of respected journalists and analysts; has only served to raise the level of “trash talk” by Buccaneers fans exponentially.

That said, it’s probably important to note for perspective that while Tampa Bay has gone from a mediocre team (7-9 last season) to a legitimate NFC Playoff contender, it might be a stretch to consider them as the best team in the NFC South.

Most would agree that New Orleans has one of the best team rosters from top to bottom overall, in the entire NFL (if not THE very best). It’s for that very reason that many are still picking the Saints to win the NFC South once again this coming season, although the additions of Brady and Gronkowski certainly could help Tampa Bay pose a serious challenge.

(Photo Credit: Edwin Goode, WVUE-TV – FOX8 New Orleans)

There’s also the simple fact that the Saints as a team have had a majority of their current roster together for the past 3 seasons, and have the advantage of familiarity; whereas Tampa in spite of their recent influx of new free-agent acquisitions over the off-season, have not.

Nevertheless, that hasn’t discouraged Buccaneers fans or even the Bucs players themselves, from confidently proclaiming their intentions of taking the division title and possibly winning Super Bowl LV (55) in February, which ironically this year will be played in Tampa at the Buccaneers’ home venue, Raymond James Stadium.

To make a long story short: many associated with or who that support the Buccaneers, believe their team is now “destined” to win it all this year.

However, those views have been (and still are being) ridiculed by many Who Dats, who have joked that if nothing else up to this point, the Bucs and their fans are already future champions at least “on paper”.

But as it turns out, it’s not just fans of the Saints that are thinking that — but perhaps a large portion of the Saints players themselves — many of whom constantly have heard and been forced to endure the National Media’s infatuation with Brady and the Buccaneers, ad nauseam.

Last week while appearing in an interview on the NFL Network, Jenkins made it a point to emphasize that the only team he and his Black and Gold-clad teammates are worried about at the moment, are themselves.

Jenkins then mentioned that he felt Brady and the Bucs were good on “paper”, but was clear in his belief that Tampa Bay ultimately will have to prove it out on the football field itself, as is the case for all 32 NFL teams every year.

Some on Social Media felt that perhaps Jenkins was making made a veiled reference (although it appears unintentionally) to the “paper champions” label — which many Who Dats have been using to tease overzealous Buccaneers fans who have been declaring their team the future winners of the NFC South Division — ever since the signings of Brady and Gronkowski that have left the city of Tampa in a constant state of euphoria.

Photo Credit: New Orleans Saints on

“We only worry about the New Orleans Saints,” Jenkins said. “We’re not worried about nobody right now. We gonna take it one game at a time, one play at a time and just get better and compete every week.”

“We understand, as you mentioned, that Tampa Bay got some new weapons, new quarterback. It’s paper, you gotta produce on the field. We just worry about the New Orleans Saints at the moment.”

Tampa Bay’s players were quickly made aware of Jenkins’ comments by the local Tampa media and fans on Social Media, which in turn elicited this response from Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard the other day in an interview with the daily program “Good Morning Football” on NFL Network.

“”You look at us and line us up versus any offense in the league, we’re right up there with the top of them,” Howard said. “So only time will tell how good we are. But I think when you put us on paper, we’re one of the best in the league, if not the best.”

“One thing about Tom, I watched him for years in New England, he’s always in the game,” Howard said.

Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers on

“I think that’s something he can bring to our team. No matter what the score is or how it starts in the first half, I think you always have a chance to win when it comes down to the final minutes of the game. He’ll keep it close.”

And even though Howard is facing the prospect of losing some playing time to the 31-year old and former All-Pro tight end Gronkowski, his praise for the former Patriots star was given without any envy or jealousy.

“There’s so much you can take from Gronk,” he said. “Just the way he plays physical down the field, at the second level of his routes, his run-after-catch ability, his YAC (yards after the catch).”

Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers on

“I mean, there’s so much you can take from him. I mean, you can take his personality. Gronk’s such a cool guy. I met him a couple times already.”

“There’s gonna be so much fun in our room. We’ve got so much talent.”

It goes without saying that the additions of Brady and Gronkowski — who will be playing alongside a pair of All-Pro caliber pass-catchers in Bucs WR’s Mike Evans and Chris Godwin — will make Tampa one of the League’s toughest offenses to defend this season, barring any major injuries.

In that regard, Tampa Bay’s talent level (as implied by Howard’s comment) is indisputable.

Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers on

But now thanks to the insufferable hype thrown into the mix by the media, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians will now have the additional pressure of trying to quickly get that talent to produce results, specifically getting back to the NFL Playoffs after a 13-year “dry spell”.

It almost happened for Arians in his very first year as the Bucs’ head man in charge last season, when 6 out of Tampa’s 9 regular season losses a year ago came only by one score. With Brady now running the show in Arians’ pass-heavy scheme, many League observers believe that the 43-year old will be the difference-maker which will allow the Buccaneers to achieve their lofty goal.

To that point: the Westgate SuperBook sports gambling establishment out in Las Vegas just recently released an updated version of each NFL team’s season odds, prior to the cancellation of the Preseason.

The Saints are now better than even money at 10/11 odds to win the NFC South, while the Bucs are right behind New Orleans, with 5/4 odds to win the division.

2020 NFC SOUTH ODDS (as of July 25th)
New Orleans Saints 10/11
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5/4
Atlanta Falcons 12/1
Carolina Panthers 20/1

With NFL Training Camps set to officially begin early next week and with no Preseason this year because of the coronavirus, those odds likely will change very little or remain the same until the two teams meet head-to-head at the Superdome in 7 more weekends from this one.

But one thing that’s unlikely to change much is the “trash talk” between the two team’s respective fan-bases — or the sickening over-hype of Brady and the Buccaneers that’s constantly being ‘spoon-fed’ nation-wide to NFL football fans — most of whom are desperate to see the return of the sport, after enduring the past several months essentially ‘locked away’ and sequestered within the confines of their homes because of the lingering dangers of COVID-19.

Yet for now: Brady, Gronk. and the rest of his Bucs teammates, will have to simply remain content with being good “on paper” for the time-being, since they haven’t accomplished anything up to this point, other than talk about what they plan on doing.

Because until they actually go out on the football field and PROVE IT, talk is all that it is.

Photo Credits: New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on

In 7 more weeks from tomorrow and in 50 more days from now, they’ll get that opportunity at the Superdome, where a motivated and 3-time defending NFC South Division Champion New Orleans Saints team will be patiently waiting for them.

You can bet this much: the Black and Gold have a similar goal of bringing home another Lombardi Trophy to their loyal and devoted fans, just like the Buccaneers do.

But the Saints would love nothing better than to beat them twice during the season, on the way to finally delivering NOLA, the great state of Louisiana, and Who Dats everywhere what they really want — winning a Super Bowl title in the same exact city and home stadium of the team that’s been “talking trash” at them all off-season — the very same team that’s already been declared the “paper champs” of the 2020 NFL Season…..

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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