After a 55 point outburst against the Los Angeles Rams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will battle the New Orleans Saints for first place in the NFC South on Sunday.
The stretch of 7 weeks away from home enters its second week Sunday for the Bucs. Coming off an impressive 55-40 win over the defending NFC Champion Rams, Tampa Bay (2-2) enters week 5 with a chance to claim first place in the NFC South. Standing in the way of that goal are the New Orleans Saints (3-1). New Orleans, without Drew Brees (thumb) is coming off a 12-10 home victory last week over the Dallas Cowboys in a game in which they scored only 4 field goals. A Bucs win would improve their overall record to 3-2, including 2-0 in the division which would give them a claim to first place heading into week 6.
Mistake free Winston is crucial to success
Since his underwhelming week 1 performance that saw 3 interceptions, Winston has settled in and been productive and smarter with the football. In the last 3 games, Winston has thrown for 973 yards, 8 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. Over this stretch he has averaged a quarterback rating of 112.1. This includes impressive performances against the leagues number 1 and number 15 pass defenses, Carolina and Los Angeles respectively. New Orleans comes in ranked in 24th against the pass. The sample size is small, but another performance from Winston like the last three could mean the Bruce Arians “quarterback whisperer” plan is in full effect.
Barrett on record setting pace
So far, the most crucial off season acquisition for the Buccaneers has proven to be linebacker Shaq Barrett. Through the first four weeks of the season, Barrett has a record 9 sacks and earned NFC defensive player of the month honors. Barrett also forced the fumble on a sack of Jared Goff that led to Ndamukong Suh’s scoop and score to seal the victory in LA. With Teddy Bridgewater leading a Saints offense that did not find the end zone last week, Barrett figures to be a huge part of the defensive game plan. Tampa Bay has already shown a tremendous effort in stopping the run and will need to be on their A game once again against Alvin Kamara this week. Todd Bowles will look to dial up pressure on the inexperienced quarterback to force potential turnover opportunities, so look for another multiple sack game from Barrett.
Matt Gay bounced back nicely after ‘Giant’ debacle in week 3, looks for consistency
After 2 missed extra points and a crucial missed 34 yard field goal against the Giants in week 3, Matt Gay had a tremendous bounce back game against the Rams. He converted all 7 extra point attempts and both field goals, including a 58 yarder. While kickers are not solely responsible for wins and losses, having Gay regain his confidence sets him up to convert in high pressure situations when the game is on the line. Tampa Bay has not had that consistency and reliability since Matt Bryant and would be sitting at 3-1 had Gay converted from 34 yards in the Giants game.
Looking ahead: Trip across the ocean looming
The Buccaneers will head to London for a week 6 NFC South showdown with the Carolina Panthers. This will be stop 3 on the 20,000+ mile, 6 week road trip.
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