WHERE: Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana
SPREAD: Bucs by 1
WHERE THE SAINTS STAND: The Saints are 7-4 and in third place in the NFC South Division (two games behind the Buccaneers).
SAINTS HEAD COACH: Jim Haslett
SAINTS OFFENSIVE COORINATOR: Mike McCarthy
SAINTS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Rick Venturi
SAINTS SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Al Everest
HOW THE BUCS RANK IN THE NFL (2002):
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 24th RUSHING: 19th PASSING: 18th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 1st RUSHING: 5th PASSING: 1st
HOW THE SAINTS RANK IN THE NFL (2002):
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 13th RUSHING: 13th PASSING: 10th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 26th RUSHING: 21st PASSING: 25th
MATCHUP TO WATCH Saints WR Joe Horn vs. Buccaneers CB Brian Kelly: Horn hauled in eight passes for 108 yards against Kelly in Week 1. Kelly gave Horn a soft cushion throughout the first half of the game and Horn took advantage of it. Horn, who is a speedster, has caught 61 passes for 953 yards and he's scored six touchdowns this season. While Kelly had a shaky outing against the Saints in Week 1, he is currently playing at a Pro Bowl-level. He leads the league in interceptions with six and he's also defended 18 passes this season.
DID YOU KNOW…
…the Buccaneers, in the regular season, are just 4-9 in the Louisiana Superdome?
DEUCE CAN'T GET LOOSE:
Saints running back Deuce McAllister was sidelined last week with a sprained ankle and he is listed as questionable for Sunday night's game against the Bucs. McAllister rushed a whopping 31 times for 109 yards in Week 1, but Tampa Bay's run defense has been excellent this season. If McAllister can't play, the Saints offense will certainly be less potent. McAllister has rushed for 950 yards (4.6 avg.) and has rushed for nine touchdowns this season. McAllister is also a threat in the passing game. He has caught 38 passes for 298 yards and he's scored two touchdowns. McAllister is a speedy back and can make teams pay for missing tackles. Bucs middle linebacker Shelton Quarles, who leads the Bucs' defense in tackles, did a nice job of containing McAllister in Week 1 and he'll have to do the same this time around.
BUCS MUST GET TO BROOKS EARLY AND OFTEN:
New Orleans QB Aaron Brooks picked apart Tampa Bay's secondary in Week 1. The Saints converted 50 percent of its third downs in that game and won the time of possession by about 10 minutes. The Bucs' defense has played at a very high level since the second half of that game and they've had no problem getting themselves off of the field on third downs. Brooks has completed just 57.4 percent of his passes for 2,691 yards and he's thrown 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Brooks is an elusive quarterback, but the Bucs held him to just nine yards rushing in Week 1. Brooks does tend to make bad throws. He's thrown 13 interceptions this season, which bodes well for Tampa Bay's defense, which has hauled in 25 interceptions this season.
BUCS' No. 1 PASS DEFENSE MUST STOP NEW ORLEANS' RECEIVERS:
Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks has done a nice job of spreading the ball out to different receivers on offense. While Horn had a lot of success in Week 1, receivers Jerome Pathon and rookie Donte' Stallworth have been just as productive this season. Pathon is even faster than Horn and he's caught 38 passes for 455 yards and he's scored four touchdowns. Stallworth caught a touchdown pass against Tampa Bay in Week 1 and he's hauled in 24 passes for 315 yards and six touchdowns this season. Bucs cornerback Dwight Smith will have his hands full with Stallworth and the team won't likely be able to double-cover him when the Saints feature three wide receiver sets. Smith has performed admirably as the team's nickel back this season, but he'll have to contain Stallworth on Sunday night.
SAINTS' DEFENSE STRUGGLING:
The Saints' defense is allowing its opponents to average 360 yards of offense per game this season. While the Bucs' offense struggled throughout the first half of its Week 1 contest, they should be able to move the ball through the air and on the ground. The Saints are allowing 124.7 yards rushing per game on the ground and 236 yards per game through the air. The team is also surrendering nearly 26 points per game this season. Look for Tampa Bay to attack New Orleans through the air first, but they must respect safety Sammy Knight, who has defensed 10 passes and intercepted three passes this season.
FOR MORE INFORMATION NEW ORLEANS SAINTS:
Visit the New Orleans Saints' web site and TheInsiders New Orleans Saints' web site for more information on Tampa Bay's next opponent – the New Orleans Saints.
BUCS SOUND OFF:
Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks on the Saints' offense:
"Obviously New Orleans' offense is playing very well right now. I think they are in the top five or top six in the league. Our job is not only to stop Aaron Brooks, but to go out and control their offense and not let them get the scores they got on us in the first time we played them. It is a very important game for us. It is a game that I think we have to have to win this division."
Brooks on playing in the Superdome:
"The Superdome has hosted some big events, just in my lifetime. It's just going to be another big stage on Sunday. We have a good following over in New Orleans as far as our fans. I think we have proven that we can go on the road and play in hostile environments. It is going to be no different this week than for any other road game, going into hostile territory and going in and playing good, sound football and find a way to win."
Brooks on what happened in Week 1:
"You give them credit. They ran the football on us and controlled the game early on. I think we got a little momentum in the second quarter and the end of the fourth when we made our run. From a defensive standpoint, we have to start faster and go out there and tackle better and prevent them from getting the big plays on us. Just keep the ball in front. Don't let small routes, five-yard routes, turn into 20 or 30-yard gains."
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden on what the atmosphere is going to be like Sunday night:
"It's going to be a very hostile environment. It's going to be loud. It's going to be very anti-Buc. It's going to be an emotional game. These are two teams that are competing hard to try to win the Southern (division) championship and it's not going to be easy. But it's going to be a very emotional, live crowd and it's going to be very exciting."
Gruden on whether or not he thinks New Orleans is a desperate team:
"No. I look at the film. Last week, they lost to Cleveland and they turned the ball over a few times in the red zone. Cleveland made some flashy plays – (WR Dennis) Northcutt runs a draw play out of the backfield from a no-back set. This is a dangerous, very talented team. They're very talented, and had it not been for (Atlanta QB) Michael Vick and some of the magic he brings to the field, this team right here is as good a team as we've seen overall this year."
Tampa Bay has the opportunity to put yet another nail into New Orleans' coffin on Sunday night, but it will be much easier said than done.
The Bucs' keys to victory are simple, but yet they will be tough to accomplish. For starters, the game is on the road and in a dome, but the Bucs are 4-1 on the road this season and they've actually played well in domes in the past mostly because the astroturf surface compliments Tampa Bay's speed on defense. Both of the Saints' losses have come at home this season.
Tampa Bay must protect quarterback Brad Johnson in this one. New Orleans' defense treated him like a tackling dummy in Week 1 and they'll likely blitz him often on Sunday night. If the Bucs can pick up those blitzes, they should find some success downfield in both the running and passing game.
The Buccaneers must get off to a quick start on offense and the defense can help them do that by creating a turnover (s) or perhaps the special teams will contribute with a long punt or kick return.
All the Bucs players talked about this week was how they wanted revenge for their Week 1 loss to the Saints and they're looking forward to getting that opportunity on Sunday night in a nationally televised game. Some questioned whether or not Tampa Bay was for real a few weeks ago and the Pewter Pirates silenced some of those critics by downing the Packers last Sunday. But if the Bucs can escape the Superdome with a win against the Saints, they'll take a three-game lead over the Saints in the NFC South Division and they'll dramatically increase their chances of securing homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. If you thought the Bucs would have a hard time getting motivated for this one, think again.
FLYNN'S PICK Buccaneers 24 Saints 16
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