New Orleans got their first win of the season against San Diego right before heading into their bye week. A week off set off a new round of bounty gate but that doesn't matter because all the players appealed their suspensions and will be allowed to play this week and keep playing until their appeal hearing has taken place.
The Saints got some good news with the return of linebacker Jonathan Vilma who is back from injury but some bad news with tight end Jimmy Graham out for this game. Getting back Vilma should be an emotional boost but the loss of Graham really hurts the offense.
This week, New Orleans faces an up and down Tampa Bay squad. The Buccaneers defeated Kansas City 38-10 for their second win of the season last Sunday.
New Orleans needs to run the ball more with Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas. The Saint have relied on Drew Brees arm way too much this season and have not been balanced on offense.
Brees is a great quarterback but with Graham out and other wide receiver banged up, New Orleans will have a better chance establishing the running game and using play action to hit big plays.
The Saints finally found a pass rush against the Chargers before hitting their bye week and with luck they haven't lost that pass rush over the week off. New Orleans must get pressure on Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman to force him into mistakes.
Freeman will run at time and quarterbacks who can run have given the Saints fits this season. New Orleans must contain Freeman (keep him in the pocket), while getting hits and sacks on the very big, strong quarterback.
Even though he has been better than last season, Freeman still hasn't been as good as he was a couple of years ago. Not letting Freeman get off to a quick start would help the Saints out immensely in this game.
Tampa Bay features a two-head running attack in Doug martin and LeGarrette Blount. Both backs can run inside or get outside. That means the Saints mus tackle soundly and not let these two backs get a ton of yards after contact.
The biggest receiving threats for the Buccaneers are wide outs Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Both players are strong with good hands and can get down field on deep passes.
Coverage will be very important to stop both of these talented receivers. A blown coverage and Jackson or Williams will be in the end zone for six points.
New Orleans must find ways to force turnovers in this game as well. Even more important is stopping Tampa Bay on third down.
In their wins, the Buccaneers have been respectable on third down but in their losses Tampa Bay has been down right terrible on third down. The Saints defense must get off the field when they get chances to make stops.
This is a very winnable game and it would get the Saints close to .500 on the season. A loss would again pretty much end New Orleans playoff hopes.
The Saints have dug themselves a whole but the hole is not so deep they can't pull out of it. New Orleans must take each week, one game at a time and most importantly keep winning.
Saints 34 Buccaneers 23