By J.T. Olson
Special to Sports Talk Florida
Divisional games are always a battle. Particularly when a team feels like they have something to prove. That will be the case when the Tampa Bay Bucs travel to play the New Orleans Saints.
Both teams have postseason goals. They have a history that includes smack talk, on field altercations and a playoff elimination. In many ways familiarity really does breed contempt.
Here’s what you can expect in the upcoming division clash verse the Saints.
Last year the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl. But what they didn’t win was their own division. That title went to the Saints. In fact, the Saints have won it the last four years and the Bucs haven’t won the NFC South since 2007.
Obviously, that was expected to change this year after the Bucs brought back everyone from their championship team. Currently Tampa Bay is in first place and the Saints are in second. It feels too early to call this a decisive game, but having a 2.5 game gap would be big if the Bucs won.
The Elephant In The Room
Of course we have to talk about it. The Bucs will face off against Jameis Winston for the first time while he is the full time starter of the New Orleans Saints. Regardless of any feelings towards the former Bucs quarterback, Winston will always be linked to this franchise. The former number one overall pick will look to get some pay back on the franchise that let him walk away.
Yes, this game will feel like seeing your ex in public. However, at the end of the day this is just another opponent. Just another football matchup with strengths and weaknesses. Both of which the Bucs and their fans are very familiar with.
Winston has been fairly controlled so far this year. He hasn’t put up the yardage numbers, but he’s thrown 13 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. We know too well what Winston is capable of, but this has not been the same guy so far in 2021.
Defense Still Strong
It’s no secret that the Saints had to make hard choices in the offseason due to their cap situation. Despite this, they still look as strong as ever on defense. New Orleans ranks third in rush yards allowed per game and eighth in total yards allowed per game.
With established stars at every level, there is no glaring weakness to exploit. It will be strength vs strength going against the likes of Marshon Lattimore, Demario Davis, Cam Jordan and the rest of the Saints defense.
Hold The Line
With basically no established playmakers for this game, the Saints will lean heavily on their star running back Alvin Kamara. He will be running behind an offensive line that has been one of the best in the league over the last several years. This is without question the strength of the Saints offense.
Once again, this will be a situation of strength vs strength. The Bucs are the best run defense in the NFL. Matchups between Vita Vea and Erik McCoy or Shaq Barrett and Ryan Ramczyk will be some of the best trench battles you’ll see across the league.
This will be a tough, physical game. There is bad blood between these two teams and it’s very important in terms of the playoff race. However, at the end of the day the Bucs are the more talented team and should be expected to win. My prediction: