The NFL regular season is getting kickstarted and the New Orleans Saints open up the season inside the friendly confines! It seems all too easy to predict this ballgame to be a big win for the Saints to start the season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sans Jameis Winston, but there’s a lot more to it than just that.
On with the preview!
Last Time Out
The Saints wrapped up their preseason slate with a big win over the Los Angeles Rams while the Bucs fell to in-state foe Jacksonville 25-10.
The last time these two teams faced off, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to come away with a last-second touchdown to take the down the Saints to end their 2017 season on a strong note. The New Orleans Saints hold a commanding lead in the overall series with 32 wins to Tampa Bay’s 19.
Storylines to Watch
One of the big things that many Saints fans have kept an eye on throughout the preseason was who would get playing time in the backfield for the first four games without Mark Ingram. You have Alvin Kamara, recently picked up Mike Gillislee and that’s it. All throughout training camp, Sean Payton mentioned they don’t want to overuse their second-year back too much during this stretch while Ingram is serving his suspension.
With Gillislee behind Kamara, that doesn’t instill a whole lot of faith in Kamara not getting used too much. If they still had Jonathan Williams still on the roster, I’d sleep a little bit more comfortably but with just two backs on the roster Kamara will definitely be the bellcow for this offense the first four weeks and that could cause a lot of problems as we get further into the season.
Bucs Without Winston
The Buccaneers seem to be at an immediate disadvantage without Winston as he’s suspended for the first three games due to an incident with an Uber driver. With him out, journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick will be leading the team and it’ll be something to monitor in the season opener.
What’s interesting is that Fitzpatrick has only played the Saints once in his career and that was last year after Winston went down with an injury. Even in a loss, he went 8-of-15 for 68 yards and a touchdown. With how dominant the Saints defense looks, he’ll need a lot more than that to try and pull off the big upset.
Snapping a Streak
It’s been a while since the Saints started off the regular season 1-0. In fact, it hasn’t happened since the 2013 season when they took down Atlanta 23-17. Drew Brees spoke earlier in the week about wanting to start off fast this season and this may be as good of a chance as any to do that with a Buccaneers team that has had a hard time establishing an identity in recent years.
New Orleans Will Win If:
The Saints just need to stick to the gameplan and a season opening win should be well in hand. Another key to victory would be to keep Kamara’s workload down to about 25 touches. You know that teams have scouted him all offseason long after he became a breakout player in the league. If the Saints can make them remember that he isn’t the only weapon they have to deal with, this could be a big win to open up the season.
Tampa Bay Will Win If:
The Buccaneers have to get a lot of things to fall a certain way to come away with a big upset with Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Can he do some good things for this team? Of course he has the chance, but I can’t give them a snowball’s chance in Hades of coming away with a win on Sunday afternoon.