Mon, 06 Feb 2023

2022 Game Preview: Saints-Buccaneers, Week 13

Buccaneers
02 Dec 2022, 18:26 GMT+10

Tampa Bay BuccaneersWith every remaining divisional game now crucial for the Bucs, they will go for the season sweep of New Orleans in prime time, as the Bucs' offense looks to get back on track on Monday Night FootballScott Smith

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints met in the Superdome in Week Two, it wasn't yet obvious how the NFC South would shake out in 2022. The Buccaneers had won the division in 2021, breaking the Saints' four-year stranglehold on that title, but New Orleans had still come through an injury-plagued season with a respectable 9-8 record. Those two teams were widely expected to battle for NFC South control this year as well, and both teams had won their opening games.

Now it is 11 weeks later...and the picture still isn't particularly clear? The Buccaneers lead the division and have for most of the season, but their 5-6 record suggests their grip isn't particularly tight. The Buccaneers won that September matchup but in a game that was tied until the fourth quarter. The Saints have won only three more times in the their 10 games since and are technically in last place in the division but that's a tenuous position, too, given that all four teams in the division stand between 5-6 and 4-8.

So now the Buccaneers and Saints prepare to square off again and this time they will do so in front of a captive national audience on the Monday Night Football stage. The Buccaneers certainly haven't enjoyed their prime time shows that have co-starred the Saints in the past two seasons, losing 38-3 on Sunday Night Football in Week Nine of the 2020 season and 9-0 on the same stage in Week 15 of last year, both at Raymond James Stadium.

Given the team's records, this might not be the flashiest MNF matchup of the season, but there is no diminishing the magnitude of this week's game to the Buccaneers' playoff hopes. With the Falcons at home this week against a 4-7 Pittsburgh team, the Bucs could be fighting to stay in first place by the time their game kicks off on Monday night. With a Wild Card berth unlikely for whoever finishes as the runner-up in the division, the three most important remaining contests on Tampa Bay's schedule are the Monday night affair, Week 17 against Carolina and Week 18 in Atlanta.

After winning two games before their bye to return to a .500 record, the Buccaneers had hoped to come roaring out of their week off the way they did in each of the last two seasons, and in particular in 2020 at a similar part of the season. They were mere seconds from a third straight win in Cleveland in Week 12 before David Njoku made a dazzling one-handed touchdown catch on fourth down to send the game to overtime. The Browns prevailed in the extra period and the Buccaneers are left wondering if their apparent gains in Munich in a rousing win over Seattle, particularly on offense, were lasting or temporary.

The numbers for Tampa Bay and New Orleans so far this season would suggest the potential of a tight, low-scoring affair. The Saints were shutout by a very good San Francisco defense last weekend and also managed just 10 points against Pittsburgh in Week 10 and 13 against Baltimore in Week Nine. (In between, they drilled the Rams, 27-10.) The Buccaneers couldn't manage to build on a seven-point lead in the second half in Cleveland and thus left themselves vulnerable to the eventual comeback, and Tampa Bay has scored more than 22 points in just one game this season.

Meanwhile the Buccaneers boast the league's seventh-best scoring defense and would likely be higher if they could develop more of a killer instinct in the waning minutes of the game. The Saints are 19th in that category but generally seem to match up well with what the Buccaneers are trying to do on offense, as is ably demonstrated by the aforementioned Sunday night scores the past two years. New Orleans has had trouble generating takeaways - only seven total in 12 games - but still has star power at every level in defensive end Cameron Jordan, linebacker Demario Davis and cornerback Marshon Lattimore, among others.

Tampa Bay's two best games this season, a Sunday night win in Dallas to kick things off and the historic victory over Seattle in Germany in Week 10, both came when the team was playing in an exclusive window in the NFL's weekend window. Can the Buccaneers respond to that treatment again on Monday night? The NFC South race may not be unfolding the way most envisioned it would, but the division is still very much up for grabs and Week 13 could prove to be a turning point for one of these two teams.

GAME AND BROADCAST DETAILS

New Orleans Saints (4-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6)

Monday, December 5, 8:15 p.m. ET

Raymond James Stadium (capacity: 69,000)

Tampa, Florida

Television: ESPN

TV Broadcast Team: Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst), Lisa Salters (reporter)

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

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

GAMEDAY INFORMATION

Coming to the game or enjoying pregame festivities? Check out our Buccaneers Gameday Pagefor everything you need to know about getting ready for the game, Tailgate Packages, Bucs Beach and more!

TICKETING INFORMATION

The 2022 season is underway and there are a limited number of Single Game Tickets on sale now! Visit Buccaneers.com to purchase tickets.

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. They became even better acquainted when the league changed its scheduling format to a divisional rotation in 2002, after 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 Buccaneers own the win in the only postseason meeting between the two teams, as they defeated the Saints in the Divisional Round in 2020 by a 30-20 score in the Superdome on the way to the Super Bowl LV championship. That proved to be the final game in Drew Brees's illustrious career, as he retired a few months later.

Tampa Bay also won the most recent regular-season meeting in the series, taking a 20-10 decision in the Superdome in Week Two of this season. That victory broke the Saints' seven-game stranglehold on the series started in December of 2018 and followed with season sweeps in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The Buccaneers and Saints played to a 3-3 tie into the fourth quarter but five takeaways by Tampa Bay's defense in the final 17 minutes of play, including a pick-six by Mike Edwards, allowed for the Bucs to pull away and get their first regular-season win in New Orleans since 2018. The Bucs now have a shot at their first season sweep of the Saints since 2007.

During their long winning streak in the series, New Orleans scored at least 28 points in five of those seven games, including a 36-27 decision in New Orleans on Halloween last year. The exception was a 9-0 blanking the Saints delivered at Raymond James Stadium last December, marking just the second shutout for either team in the series and the first since a 41-0 win by New Orleans in 2012. The roughest game for the Buccaneers in that stretch came on a Sunday night in November of 2020 at Raymond James Stadium, with the Saints rolling to a 38-3 decision that was easily Tampa Bay's worst game on its way to that Super Bowl title.

Overall, the Saints hold a 39-22 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 41 times, 26 of them going in favor of New Orleans. The two teams had a run of season splits from 2015-18, and it wasn't just a matter of the each club holding serve on home field advantage. The Buccaneers actually won at New Orleans in 2015 and 2018, as noted above. That 2018 game was a 48-40 decision that set an NFL record for most combined points in a Week One contest.

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 also won both games in 2020 in the regular season, in another Buccaneers championship campaign.

NOTABLE CONNECTIONS

* Senior Advisor to the General Manager 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.

* Among the many coaching stops for Buccaneers Assistant Coach Tom Moore over more than four decades in the NFL was one season as the Saints' running backs coach in 1997.

* Saints quarterback Jameis Winston 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).

* Buccaneers DL Akiem Hicks originally entered the NFL in 2012 as a third-round draft pick by the Saints. He played three-plus seasons in New Orleans before being traded to the Patriots in 2015.

* Saints safety Justin Evans was a second-round draft pick by the Buccaneers in 2017. He started 21 games over his first two seasons in Tampa before his career was derailed by a foot injury. He was eventually released by the Buccaneers in December of 2020 and did not play in the NFL last year before signing with the Saints this offseason.

* Sterling Moore joined the New Orleans coaching staff this year as a defensive assistant. He played seven seasons as a cornerback in the NFL, including the 2015 campaign in Tampa in which he started nine games.

* Tampa Bay QB Ryan Griffin, who is currently on the practice squad 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.

* Fred McAfee, the Saints' vice president of player engagement, played 16 years in the NFL as a running back and that included a very brief stop with the Buccaneers in 1999. McAfee appeared in one game for Tampa Bay that season.

* 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 Todd Bowles

* Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin

* Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich

* Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers

* Pass Game Coordinator/Inside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote

* Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong

New Orleans:

* Head Coach Dennis Allen

* Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael

* Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line Ryan Nielsen

* Co-Defensive Coordinator/Secondary Kris Richard

* Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi

KEY 2022 ROSTER ADDITIONS

Buccaneers:

* P Jake Camarda (fourth-round draft pick)

* WR Russell Gage (UFA)

* G Luke Goedeke (second-round draft pick)

* DL Logan Hall (second-round draft pick)

* T Fred Johnson (FA)

* WR Julio Jones (FA)

* TE Ko Kieft (sixth-round draft pick)

* G Shaq Mason (trade-NE)

* CB Zyon McCollum (fifth-round draft pick)

* OLB Carl Nassib (FA)

* S Keanu Neal (UFA)

* TE Cade Otton (fourth-round draft pick)

* TE Kyle Rudolph (FA)

* S Logan Ryan (FA)

* RB Rachaad White (third-round draft pick)

Saints:

* QB Andy Dalton (UFA)

* CB Chris Harris (FA)

* RB David Johnson (FA...currently on practice squad)

* WR Jarvis Landry (FA)

* S Tyrann Mathieu (FA)

* S Marcus Maye (UFA)

* WR Chris Olave (1st-round draft pick)

* T Trevor Penning (1st-round draft pick)

* WR Rashid Shaheed (UDFA)

* S Daniel Sorenson (UFA)

* DT Kentavius Street (FA)

* CB Alontae Taylor (2nd-round draft pick)

ADDITIONAL 2022 CHANGES OF NOTE

Buccaneers:

* While the Bucs continue to maintain enviable continuity on their coaching staff, there is a new person in the corner office. In March, Bruce Arians stepped down after three years as the head coach and took on a new role as a senior advisor to the general manager. Todd Bowles was promoted from defensive coordinator to take his place. Bowles previously served as the New York Jets' head coach from 2015-18 before rejoining Arians when the latter came on as the Buccaneers' head coach in 2019.

* With Bowles stepping up the Bucs needed a new defensive coordinator and they essentially named two of them. Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers added the title of Run Game Coordinator while Outside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote switched to inside linebackers and added the title of Pass Game Coordinator. They are in effect co-defensive coordinators. Bob Sanders joined the staff to take over for Foote in the outside linebackers room. Foote made his switch after Inside Linebackers Coach Mike Caldwell landed the defensive coordinator position in Jacksonville under new Head Coach Doug Pederson.

* The Buccaneers had two key players retire after the 2021 season, but only one of them stayed retired. While quarterback Tom Brady eventually elected to return 40 days after announcing he was stepping away from the game, his long-time buddy Rob Gronkowski walked away for good, leading to big changes in the Bucs' tight end room. While veteran Cam Brate returned, O.J. Howard left in free agency and the Buccaneers subsequently drafted Cade Otton and Ko Kieft and signed veteran Kyle Rudolph.

* Tampa Bay's defense also saw the departure of two front-seven stalwarts from the extremely successful 2020-21 seasons, as neither DL Ndamukong Suh nor OLB Jason Pierre-Paul was re-signed. The team signed veteran standout Akiem Hicks and drafted Houston's Logan Hall 33rd overall to address depth up front and are relying on 2021 first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka to step up on the edge.

Saints:

* Sixty-four days before Arians surprisingly retired from his head coaching position in Tampa, Sean Payton did the exact same thing in the Bayou. Payton stepped down on January 25 after 15 very successful seasons at the Saints' helm (not counting the 2012 season during which he was suspended by the NFL) and took a studio analyst job with FOX. Continuing the parallel, the Saints filled the vacant head coach seat by promoting their defensive coordinator, in this case Dennis Allen, who had been in that post for the previous seven seasons. This is Allen's second crack at an NFL head coaching job as he was also in charge of the Oakland Raiders from 2012-14. His Raider teams compiled an 11-37 record in that span.

* In yet another development that mirrored the Bucs' coaching changes, the Saints filled Allen's previous post by taking two of their existing defensive assistants and giving them both co-defensive coordinator titles to go with their positional duties. Now handling the defense together in New Orleans are Kris Richard, who also coaches the secondary, and Ryan Nielsen, who tutors the defensive linemen. Richard was previously Seattle's defensive coordinator from 2015-17 and he first came to the Saints last season to coach the defensive backs. Nielsen had coached in the college ranks for roughly two decades before joining the Saints in 2017.

* The Saints had a number of other changes to their coaching staff, as well, as Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi had assistant head coach added to his title and Ronald Curry was promoted to passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach. The Saints also hired former Bills and Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone to run the offensive line and added Kodi Burns as the new wide receivers coach. Other new additions to the staff include Bob Bicknell as senior offensive assistant, Sterling Moore as defensive assistant, Matt Clapp as strength coach and Matt Rhea as director of sports science.

* The Saints' offensive line, which has long been one of the league's best due largely to frequent and successful drafting for that unit in the early rounds, lost of one of those draft gems in free agency when Terron Armstead went to Miami. Once again, the Saints drafted an offensive linemen in the first round this offseason, nabbing Northern Iowa's Trevor Penning at number 19 overall to replace Armstead. However, that plan is on hold after Penning sustained a foot injury in the Saints' preseason finale and was placed on injured reserve. He is required to miss at least four games but is expected to be out longer than that. The team now turns back to veteran James Hurst, who started 15 games at four different positions for them in 2021, including eight at left tackle while Armstead was injured.

* New Orleans also completely overhauled the back end of its secondary after Marcus Williams left for Baltimore in free agency and Malcolm Jenkins retired. The Saints responded by signing former Jet Marcus Maye and former Chief Tyrann Mathieu, the latter of whom is a local hero who played his college ball at LSU. Then, shortly before the start of the season, the Saints traded C.J. Gardner-Johnson to the Eagles for a pair of Day Three draft picks in 2023 and 2024.

TOP STORYLINES

*Power Shift? *- When the Buccaneers pulled out of a 3-3 fourth-quarter tie with the Saints back in Week Two and used a barrage of turnovers to pull away for the 10-point win, it came with a tremendous sense of relief. Even as Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl in the 2020 season and captured the NFC South in 2021, the Saints remained control in the head-to-head series, winning seven straight regular-season meetings. The Bucs had won in New Orleans in their postseason run to the Super Bowl LV title but otherwise couldn't get over the hump against their bitter division rivals. So, was that victory in Week Two a shift in the series dynamic or will it prove to be a one-game blip? The Saints will be highly motivated, as a win over the Buccaneers could prove to be their last, best chance to get back in the division title race. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, will be driven by an effort to sweep the season series for the first time since 2007 and at the same time take another step towards capturing consecutive NFC South titles for the first time since the division was formed in 2002. The Bucs-Saints games of recent vintage have been driven by over-the-top emotion, and indeed star WR Mike Evans was suspended for Week Three this season after he came to the defense of Tom Brady with a shove of Marshon Lattimore. The Buccaneers used that emotion to create a defensive onslaught in the fourth quarter in Week Two but will likely need to control it on Monday night if they want to take over as the kings of the division.

*Will The Real Offense Please Step Up *- In Munich in Week 10, the Buccaneers seemed to solve most of the issues that had been holding back its offense, most notably the lack of production on the ground and difficulties on third down. A 161-yard rushing performance that made good use of both Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White was encouraging, as was the conversion of 10 of 13 third-down tries (not counting two half-ending kneel-downs. But will those solutions prove lasting or will the win over Seattle prove to be an outlier? The Bucs did gain 96 yards on the ground and average 4.8 per carry in Cleveland, but 56 of that came on their very first drive. Meanwhile, a 4-15 performance on third down led to a long string of punts and kept the Bucs from adding to what would prove to be too tenuous of a lead. As Head Coach Todd Bowles noted on Monday, a team doesn't simply "solve" its problems in one game and put them away forever. It's a game-by-game process to get things right. The question is, can the Buccaneers do that more often than not? That may be the key to the final six weeks of the regular season leading to some more action in January.

*Turnover Repeat? *- The Buccaneers' defense has produced 11 takeaways this season, an average of exactly one per game. Amazingly, nearly half of them occurred during a stretch of 14 game minutes in the Superdome in Week Two. Three interceptions and two fumble recoveries between the end of the third quarter and the last two minutes of the fourth period turned a 3-3 tie in the Saints' home into a runaway Bucs victory. Since that week, the turnover story has been very different for the Buccaneers. After getting two more takeaways against Green Bay in Week Three and one more against the Chiefs in Week Four, the Bucs' defense has produced only two turnovers in the last seven games behind. One of those two, Mike Edwards' interception of a Hail Mary to end the first half in Cleveland, didn't even give the Buccaneers an extra possession. The Buccaneers have also been very stingy with the ball on offense, committing only nine giveaways all season for an overall turnover ratio of +2. Meanwhile, the Saints are uncharacteristically poor in that category, ranking last in the NFL with a -14 turnover ratio. The talented Saints defense, which produced an average of almost exactly 25 takeaways over the previous five seasons, has just seven so far this year. Safety Tyrann Mathieu has the Saints' only two interceptions on the season. The turnover barrage was the key to the Bucs' victory in New Orleans in Week Two. Can they repeat that type of performance in the rematch?

*More Secondary Shakeups *- The Buccaneers weathered a handful of injuries in their defensive backfield in the middle of the season and were close to getting back to a fully intact lineup when Week 12 began. However, the game in Cleveland took its toll as five different Buccaneer defensive backs were shaken up at some point during the afternoon. In the aftermath, safety Antoine Winfield Jr. has an ankle sprain while safety Mike Edwards and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting are dealing with contusions. The Buccaneers may have to dip into their depth again, as they did at the end of last week's game with converted safety Dee Delaney and rookie corner Zyon McCollum. There is some potential good news on that front, as veteran safety Logan Ryan has been designated to return from injured reserve and could possibly be activated in time for Monday's game against the Saints. Prior to sustaining a foot injury in Week Four, Ryan had played nearly 70% of the team's defensive snaps in the first three games and was responsible for two takeaways.

*Winning in the Trenches *- The one area of Monday's game that most notably pits strength on strength is the Buccaneers' pass-blocking crew versus the Saints' pass-rushing posse. The Bucs' front line has allowed Tom Brady to be sacked only 17 times in 11 games and ranks first in the NFL with a sacks-per-pass-play allowed rate of 3.61%. However, Brady was sacked three times by the Browns' Myles Garrett-led rush, tying a single-game season high, and to make matters worse All-Pro right tackle was lost to a high ankle sprain in overtime. Now that group, with a new starter at right tackle, has to contend with a Saints' defense that has produced 33 sacks in 12 games and ranks seventh with a sacks-per-pass-play rate of 8.73%. As has been the case with the Buccaneers' defense, the Saints have gotten their sacks via a committee effort. Perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan may not get his customary double-digit sacks - he's at 5.5 with five games to go - but star off-ball linebacker Demario Davis has a team-high 6.5, linebacker Kaden Elliss has 4.5 and underrated interior lineman David Onyemata has 3.5. It will be tougher without Wirfs, but the Bucs' blockers will have to be sound in their assignments and ready to pick up any variety of blitzes.

KEY MATCHUPS

1. Buccaneers RB Rachaad White vs. Saints LB Demario Davis

Veteran Leonard Fournette may return from his hip pointer injury this week, but either way rookie running back Rachaad White has probably earned a larger role in the offense going forward. He has surpassed 100 yards from scrimmage in two straight games and last week demonstrated that he could handle an every-down back role complete with running, blocking and pass catching. When a crease presents itself, White hits it with authority and gets into the second level of the defense quickly. He has produced the Bucs' three longest runs of the season over the past two outings. White will have to contend with one of the NFL's best off-ball linebackers on Monday, both when he gets the ball and when he stays in the backfield. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Demario Davis has finished in the top five among NFL linebackers in quarterback pressures in every full season since 2017. He also covers a lot of ground to make plays against the run, generating 43 hustle stops over the previous four seasons, the second most in the NFL. Davis has no holes in his game - he can stop the run, cover backs and tight ends and rush the passer - and he has become the linchpin of the Saints' defense.

2. Saints WR Chris Olave vs. Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis

Rookie first-rounder Chris Olave has quickly emerged as the new top threat in the Saints' passing attack, leading the team with 56 catches for 822 yards and three touchdowns. In Week Seven, NFL Next Gen stats noted that Olave was generating the fastest average top speed among NFL players within the first three seconds of his routes, at 15.57 miles per hour. Last week, NGS also reported that Olave is second only to the Raiders' Davante Adams in intended air yards, with 1,240. In plainer terms, that means the Saints like to throw it deep to their speedy rookie, and he is averaging 14.7 yards per catch. The Buccaneers found this out first-hand in Week Two when Jameis Winston repeatedly lofted downfield shots to the rookie. (Winston has since been replaced at quarterback by Andy Dalton.). Olave plays the majority of his snaps on the outside rather than in the slot and has lined up to the right of the formation more often than the left. That will bring him into Carlton Davis's orbit. Davis notably broke up a deep shot intended for Donovan Peoples-Jones in last week's game at Cleveland, one of his two PBUs in the game. The 6-1, 206-pound Davis matches up well against the somewhat slight rookie receiver, and in Week One he forced a fumble by Olave late in the game and recovered the loose ball.

3. Buccaneers T Josh Wells vs. Saints DE Cameron Jordan

Josh Wells actually started the first Bucs-Saints game of the season, but that was at left tackle in place of the injured Donovan Smith. Since seven-time Pro Bowl end Cameron Jordan rushes almost exclusively from the left edge of the Saints' defensive front, he is a problem for the league's right tackles, and that's what Wells will be on Sunday when he gets the start in place of the injured Tristan Wirfs. Wirfs helped hold Jordan without a sack or a quarterback hit in Week Two, setting a high bar for Wells. Jordan has what is for him a relatively tame sack total so far this season, at 5.5 through 12 games, but he has been known to go on hot streaks and rack them up in bunches. For instance, he 8.5 sacks in the final four games of last season. Jordan is a relentless pass rusher who never takes a play off, and he can also set the edge well against the run. Wells has been a reliable swing tackle for the Buccaneers for the past four seasons, generally getting a couple starts a game and filling in at both right and left tackle. After starting the game in the Superdome in Week Two he was forced to leave it early by a calf injury that led to a stint on injured reserve, but he was part of an overall blocking effort that allowed only sack, that one split by a pair of defensive tackles.

4. Saints TE Taysom Hill vs. Buccaneers S Keanu Neal

The Buccaneers can expect to see the Saints athletically-gifted gadget player on the field for 20 to 25 offensive snaps, as he has been given a 29% snap share overall this season and has averaged 22 plays over the past five games. New Orleans now labels Hill a tight end but he has run and thrown the ball far more often than he has caught it. He is a threat to run the ball when lined up under center and has carried it 58 times for 409 yards and five touchdowns this season, with one of those scores covering 60 yards. His ability to throw the ball can't be completely ignored either, as he has completed eight of 14 passes this season for 115 yards and a touchdown. The 6-2, 221-pound Hill is a load to take down in the open field, but safety Keanu Neal is a good physical match for him. Neal is a punishing tackler who does his best work around the line of scrimmage and will likely be working hard to figure out just what Hill is planning to do when he's on the field. With safety Antoine Winfield Jr. a question mark for the game, the Buccaneers are likely to give a lot of playing time to Neal, even if safety Logan Ryan returns from injured reserve in time to play. The Bucs defense as a whole had a strong outing against the Saints in Week Two but must be wary of the type of momentum-changing big play Hill is capable of producing.

INJURY REPORT

Key:

DNP: Did not participate in practice

LP: Limited participation in practice

FP: Full participation in practice

NL: Not listed

Buccaneers:

* TE Cameron Brate (illness) - THURS: DNP

* S Mike Edwards (hamstring) - THURS: DNP

* RB Leonard Fournette (hip) - THURS: FP

* WR Russell Gage (hamstring) - THURS: LP

* G Luke Goedeke (foot) - THURS: LP

* G Nick Leverett (shoulder) - THURS: FP

* CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (quadriceps) - THURS: LP

* NT Vita Vea (foot) - THURS: DNP

* S Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle) - THURS: DNP

* T Tristan Wirfs (ankle/knee) - THURS: DNP

Saints:

* C/G Josh Andrews) - THURS: LP

* S J.T. Gray (hamstring) - THURS: DNP

* RB Mark Ingram (foot) - THURS: LP

* TE Juwan Johnson (ankle) - THURS: DNP

* WR Jarvis Landry (ankle) - THURS: LP

* CB Marshon Lattimore (abdomen) - THURS: LP

* T Ryan Ramczyk (rest) - THURS: LP

* DT Malcolm Roach (illness) - THURS: DNP

* CB Bradley Roby (concussion) - THURS: DNP

* WR Rashid Shaheed (back) - THURS: LP

* DT Kentavius Street (illness) - THURS: DNP

* DE Payton Turner (ankle) - THURS: DNP

* LB Pete Werner (ankle) - THURS: LP

* WR Kevin White (illness) - THURS: DNP

* S P.J. Williams (knee) - THURS: DNP

WEATHER FORECAST

Mostly clear sky, afternoon high of 83, evening low of 65, 8% chance of rain, 82% humidity, winds out of the E at 3 mph.

GAME REFEREE

Head referee: Clay Martin (8th season, 5th as referee)

BETTING LINE

* Favorite: Buccaneers (-3.5)

* Over/Under: 40.0

INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS

Buccaneers- Points Scored: K Ryan Succop, 84

Touchdowns: RB Leonard Fournette, 6

Passing Yards: QB Tom Brady, 3,051

Passer Rating: QB Tom Brady, 92.5

Rushing Yards: RB Leonard Fournette, 462

Receptions: WR Chris Godwin, 60

Receiving Yards: WR Mike Evans, 702

Interceptions: CB Jamel Dean/S Mike Edwards, 2

Sacks: DL Vita Vea, 6.5

Tackles: ILB Devin White, 89

Saints- Points Scored: K Wil Lutz, 75

Touchdowns: TE Taysom Hill, 6

Passing Yards: QB Andy Dalton, 2,023

Passer Rating: QB Andy Dalton, 95.0

Rushing Yards: RB Alvin Kamara, 524

Receptions: WR Chris Olave, 56

Receiving Yards: WR Chris Olave, 822

Interceptions: S Tyrann Mathieu, 2

Sacks: LB Demario Davis, 6.5

Tackles: LB Demario Davis/LB Pete Werner, 73

TEAM STAT RANKINGS (2021 Final Season)

Buccaneers- Scoring Offense: 27th (18.2 ppg)

Total Offense: 18th (339.1 ypg)

Passing Offense: 5th (266.1 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 32nd (73.0 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: t-17th (20.0)

Third-Down Pct.: 23rd (38.0%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 1st (3.61%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: t-25th (50.0%)

Scoring Defense: 7th (18.5 ppg)

Total Defense: 9th (315.2 ypg)

Passing Defense: 6th (192.0 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 20th (123.2 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: 4th (17.8)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 9th (37.4%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 3rd (9.84%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 25th (63.3%)

Turnover Margin: t-8th (+2)

Saints- Scoring Offense: 21st (20.8 ppg)

Total Offense: 15th (347.3 ypg)

Passing Offense: 11th (234.1 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 22nd (113.2 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: 23rd (18.8)

Third-Down Pct.: t-16th (40.0%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 12th (6.50%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: 14th (56.7%)

Scoring Defense: 19th (23.3 ppg)

Total Defense: 11th (326.4 ypg)

Passing Defense: 7th (197.3 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 22nd (129.1 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: 11th (19.4)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 13th (38.9%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 7th (8.73%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 3rd (47.1%)

Turnover Margin: 32nd (-14)

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

* Tight End Cameron Brate has 33 career touchdown catches. His next one will tie him with Ring of Honor member Jimmie Giles for second place in franchise history in receiving TDs and fourth place in overall touchdowns.

* Meanwhile, WR Chris Godwin has caught two touchdown passes this season to give him 31 in his career, plus 32 total touchdowns (one rushing). He is therefore just one behind Brate in total TDs and could tie him with one on Sunday.

* In Week 12 in Cleveland, WR Mike Evans became the 51st player in NFL history (AFL stats included) to reach the 10,000 yard mark in receiving. If he were to get 58 more yards on Monday night he would surpass Shannon Sharpe to become the 50th-leading receiver (in yards) in league annals.

* ILB Lavonte David has tied Tony Mayberry for sixth place in Buccaneers history in number of games played at 160. His next game will give him sole possession of that spot.

* DL Will Gholston is 10th on that same list with 147 games played as a Buccaneer, and his next one will move him into a ninth-place tie with Shelton Quarles.

NOTABLY QUOTABLE

* Head Coach Todd Bowles on the Bucs needing to focus on winning the NFC South: "Well, we've all lost some games. The object at the beginning of the year is to win the division. That's still intact for us and it's still alive for us, so that's what we're trying to do. If you get in and get on a run, you don't know what's going to happen. We've got to take care of today, we've got to take care of tomorrow. We understand that we've got the Saints Monday night. It's a big game for them, a big game for us, so we've got to be ready."

* Inside linebacker Devin White on if it's now crunch time for the Buccaneers: "Oh, it's been crunch time. But, yeah, you said the right thing: Can't afford to lose. You're not in panic mode because you want to stay grounded and make sure the work ethic is still the same and you're focusing on details. Especially playing the Saints because they throw a lot of personnel out there at you and you've got to be 100 percent sound. That was the way we were able to stop them the last time, just really studying all week, knowing the personnel and knowing how to fit everything."

* Bowles on how daunting it is for the offensive line to have to adapt to yet another change: "It's not daunting. We've got to find ways to get it done. Last year it was the defense, this year it's the offense. We have to find ways to get it done. Like I said, we keep people on this team for a reason. They have to click. They're different types of players. I'm not saying they're the same caliber, but they do some things well and we've got to make sure we do the things that they do well."

* Pass Game Coordinator/Inside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote on how different this Saints team is since the last time these teams faced off in Week Two: "Well, they're the same. They use a lot of personnel. They're a physical team. They definitely have a different quarterback - [Andy Dalton is a] little more seasoned, little more pocket [heavy] than Jameis [Winston]. But they give you a lot of personnel, they give you a lot of stuff to get ready for and they've got talent. We know the mindset anytime we play [those] guys - we don't care about [any] record or where we play, we know it's going to be a tough game and we've got to out-execute."

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