NFL Wire News

Week 17 Preview: Saints at Buccaneers

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New Orleans Saints (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-13)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Sam Rosen, Kirk Morrison, Peter Schrager

*Keys to the game: The Saints’ long-prolific offense has crumbled under the weight of an inconsistent offensive line. RB Mark Ingram is the catalyst and when he was stuffed by the league’s worst defense in Atlanta last week, the league’s weakest pass rush got to QB Drew Brees for five sacks. The sputtering offense through three quarters is similar to the struggles Brees had in Week 5 against the Bucs, but New Orleans was able to rally that day for a 37-31 victory.

If Tampa Bay can slow Ingram and get after Brees in an effort to create turnovers, the Bucs can be competitive. Problem is, their own O-line issues are far worse. The running game managed just 16 yards against Green Bay last week, and the brunt of constantly taking hits in third-and-long situations has clearly taken its toll on QB Josh McCown. The offense has really boiled down to whether he can hit on a few vertical shots to WRs Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. Minus that, the Bucs have little chance of putting together extended drives.

*Matchup to watch – Saints DE Cam Jordan vs. Bucs LT Demar Dotson: Dotson makes his second career start at left tackle in place of free agent flop Anthony Collins. He was responsible in part for 2.5 sacks allowed to the Packers’ Clay Matthews last week, and Jordan is second on the Saints with 6.0 sacks.

*Player spotlight – Bucs SS Bradley McDougald: Coach Lovie Smith has praised the emergence of McDougald, who took over following the midseason trade of Mark Barron. McDougald is even covering receivers in the slot from time to time, a role Brees will no doubt attempt to test.

*Fast facts: Brees has a six-game winning streak against the Bucs with a 103.3 passer rating. … With a loss, the Bucs secure the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. They will select no lower than No. 2.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The Saints’ season has been an unmitigated disaster in the league’s worst division. They still have more offense than the rudderless Bucs can match.

*Our pick: Saints win 30-15


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