5 Bucs to Watch Against New Orleans

by Gary Shelton on December 19, 2021

in general

Devin White needs to have a good game./TIM WIRT

Sunday, 4 a.m.

The headline, from New Orleans, suggested that they have become the NFL's fiercest rivals. That doesn't quite ring true.

You could argue that it's Green Bay-Chicago. Maybe Dallas-Washington. Perhaps the Rams and the 49ers.

Still, if you are a Bucs' fan, there has been a lot of disappointment left by the New Orleans Saints.

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The Saints have beaten the Bucs in six of their last seven meetings, and often, it wasn't close. Maybe it was because of Drew Brees, now retired. Maybe it was because of Sean Payton. Maybe it was the total roster. But New Orleans has vexed the Bucs over the years, winning 38 of 60 regular-season meetings.

So what has to happen today, when the Saints are without Payton, without Brees, without much of the mojo they've had over the years?

Here are five players who have to excel for Tampa Bay.

  1. Tom Brady, quarterback: It's true that the list usually begins with Brady, the most important Buc. He's the distributor, after all. But Brady has struggled against New Orleans (not counting last season's playoff win). Three of his eight losses have come against New Orleans, and he's thrown seven picks and been sacked nine times. He's got to be better if the Bucs are to win.

2. Mike Evans, wide receiver: Evans is a great player, but he hasn't been at his best against the Saints. Five times, he's been held to two catches or less (six, if you count last year's post-season game). Chris Godwin has become Brady's go-to receiver, but Evans needs to be solid, too.

3. Devin White, linebacker: White has begun to make more of his splash plays as of late, but tonight will be taxing on him. Not only does he have to pay attention to Taysom Hill's running, he has to help cover Alvin Kamara out of the backfield, not his strongest asset.

4. Shaq Barrett, defensive end: Barrett's play often dictates how the Bucs' defense plays, but again, New Orleans has done a fine job against him. In five games with the Bucs, Barrett has one sack and is averaging fewer than three tackles per game.

5. Donovan Smith, offensive tackle: Cameron Jordon has been a force against the Bucs. In 21 games against the Bucs, Jordan has 15 sacks. Someone needs to control him.

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