Sunday’s NFC South showdown between the New Orleans Saints (1-4) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3-1) will be held in sunny Florida.
Only one club will emerge from Raymond James Stadium with a prized victory in Week 7. It was a two-team series in 2011, with each side taking the series one game to the finish in their stadium.
To get closer to the undefeated Atlanta Falcons in the division standings, each club will be looking to make it two straight wins and extend its winning streak to two games.
Everything you need to know about Sunday’s NFC South showdown in Tampa is here.
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
When: Sunday, October 21 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Listen: 105.3 FM (New Orleans), WDAE 620 AM (Tampa)
Live Streaming: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Line: Buccaneers (2.5), according to Covers.com.
What’s At Stake?
Sunday’s game in Tampa is critical to the team’s chances of winning the division. To stay within striking distance of the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South, the Buccaneers must win their second straight game and improve their record to 3-3. Tampa Bay enters Week 7 as the second-place team in the division.
Sunday’s game is a must-win for the Saints. To make up for their poor start, the New Orleans Saints need to win several games in a row. The Saints may move into a tie for second place in the NFC South with a win this weekend. A defeat by the Buccaneers on Sunday all but guarantees that New Orleans will miss the playoffs.
Saints Injury Report (according to USA Today)
CB Jabari Greer (Groin), questionable for Sunday
WR Lance Moore (hamstring), questionable for Sunday
LB Jonathan Casillas (Neck), questionable for Sunday
LB David Hawthorne (hamstring), questionable for Sunday
DE Turk McBride (Ankle), questionable for Sunday
LB Jonathan Vilma (knee), is eligible to return Sunday
LB Chris Chamberlain (Knee), is out for the season
T Marcel Jones (Knee), is out for the season
Buccaneers Injury Report (according to USA Today)
CB Aqib Talib (Suspension), eligible to return in Week 10
DE Da’Quan Bowers (Achilles), questionable for Sunday
DE Adrian Clayborn (knee), is out for the season
WR Sammie Stroughter (Foot), is out for the season
G Davin Joseph (knee), is out for the season
CB Anthony Gaitor (Hamstring), is out indefinitely
Fantasy Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em, and Sleeper
Start ‘Em: Darren Sproles, RB
When the Philadelphia Eagles played the San Diego Chargers two weeks ago, Darren Sproles was noticeably absent from the field. Tampa’s defense ranks second-worst in the league in terms of stopping the run, but it’s abysmal against the pass.
Sproles caught 13 receptions for more than 100 yards and a touchdown in two games against the Buccaneers in 2011. St. Louis’ speedy receiver will be used primarily in the passing game to target the Bucs’ weaknesses outside.
Sit ‘Em: Tampa Bay Buccaneers D/ST
Even though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense had a strong showing in Week 6, allowing only 10 points to the Kansas City Chiefs while forcing two interceptions and scoring a touchdown, fantasy owners might be better off sitting the Buccaneers on Sunday.
The Saints are coming off a bye week and have the top-ranked passing attack in the NFL. In addition, keep in mind that New Orleans hasn’t scored less than 24 points in any game this season. The Bucs may have a chance to force a turnover or two, but this is a bad matchup for them in the long run.
Sleeper: Legarrette Blount, Rb
The former Oregon running back had just had his greatest performance of the season against Kansas City a week ago. When the Chiefs came to town, Blount ran the ball seven times for 58 yards and a touchdown. The Saints, the NFL’s second-worst rushing defense, will now be his new teammates.
New Orleans’ offense will be on the ropes in Week 7 as head coach Greg Schiano prepares to pound the rock. With a weak Saints defense, LeGarrette Blount has a good chance of scoring a touchdown or two in red-zone situations, but Doug Martin will get the bulk of the running.
What They’re Saying
The safety of the Saints is our primary concern. Nola.com’s Katherine Terrell quotes Roman Harper as saying he’s eager to have Jonathan Vilma back in the center of New Orleans’ defense:
Early this week, the linebacker claimed he expects to play in Week 7 after being placed on the physically unable to perform list. Last year’s NFC Divisional Round playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers hasn’t seen Vilma play a down.
In regards to second-year defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano gave some encouraging news this week:
Because of an Achilles tendon rupture in May, Bowers hasn’t participated in an NFL game since the end of the previous season. On Sunday, Tampa Bay hopes he can play against the New Orleans Saints.
Saints Player to Watch
Even after making his NFL debut in 2006, wide receiver Marques Colston is still one of the league’s most dangerous big-play threats. As of this fall, he is on track to post his sixth consecutive season with at least 1,000 receiving yards in seven years.
He has been targeted 50 times by Drew Brees in the last five games and has 28 receptions for 444 yards and four touchdowns in that time frame. Furthermore, Colston has seven plays of 20 or more yards this season. He is the No. 1 wide receiver in New Orleans and the No. 1 big-play threat on offense at 6’4″.
Buccaneers Player to Watch
Ronde Barber, a 37-year-old veteran cornerback, is still making it look effortless. To add to his 45 career interceptions, Barber will be trying to do so this weekend when he lines up against the New Orleans Saints. Tampa Bay will be counting on him to be at his best when it faces the best passing attack in the NFL.
Barber returned an interception for a score against Kansas City last week, and he has 24 tackles, seven pass deflections, two interceptions, and a sack in just five games thus far this season. In Week 7, keep an eye out for 20. Given his legendary status as an outfielder, it’s hard to argue with that assessment.
On Sunday, Barber will start for the 205th time in a row.
Sunday’s showdown between the Saints’ passing attack and the Buccaneers’ defense will be the most important. Tampa Bay has allowed more than 312 passing yards a game on average to New Orleans, who has averaged roughly 327 passing yards per week.
If Drew Brees can settle into a rhythm early in Week 7, it might spell trouble for the host club, which lacks the offensive firepower to mount a comeback.
On the Hot Seat
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano is off to a rough start in his first season in the role. With the clock ticking down on the game, his Buccaneers have earned the reputation of savagely rushing the passer late in games and are a disappointing 2-3 after six weeks. This would be Schiano’s third home loss in three games, and he’d be furious.
Getting off to a losing start in his first NFL head coaching job at the age of 46 would not bode well for Bucs’ owners. Even in the division, and especially against opponents who are 1-4, you need to win your home games in the NFL.
Against the Chargers two weeks ago, the Saints got exactly what they needed—a victory. In 2012, New Orleans understands exactly what it needs to do to win a football game. The Buccaneers have had a great season, but they lack the talent to compete with the Saints. It will be a competitive game on Sunday, but I think Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints will come out on top.