By Max Luckan
On Sunday, it’ll be round two for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints. This will be the second time the two teams play each other and the Saints were able to hold off the Bucs in the first game. However, at 6-7 the Bucs will need to win this game in order to stay in the playoff picture, but the 5-8 Saints will be looking to play spoiler. The Saints beat the Bucs 35-28 the first time these two teams met and the game was very closely contested. But this time around, the Saints will have tight end Jimmy Graham, who missed the first game because of an injury.
For the Bucs, defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, who has played well since returning from a ruptured Achilles a few weeks ago, is listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report because of a hamstring injury. What’s interesting, though, is that Bowers is also listed on the report as dealing with something that’s “not injury related.” However, the Bucs said it was just a mistake and that Bowers is actually just dealing with the hamstring issue, which is why he missed practice Wednesday. But a source said that Bowers actually missed practice on Wednesday due to a death in the family.
Cornerback LeQuan Lewis, who missed last Sunday’s game, is listed as questionable because of a knee injury. That same injury also kept Lewis out of the game against the Philadelphia Eagles. If Lewis can’t play Sunday, look for recently re-signed cornerback Brandon McDonald to see even more playing time.
Defensive end Michael Bennett, cornerback Anthony Gaitor, tackle Jamon Meredith, and defensive tackle Roy Miller are all listed as probable on the final injury report, which means that they are expected to play.
However, the Saints will be without two starters. Safety Malcolm Jenkins will miss Sunday’s game against the Bucs because of a hamstring injury. Jenkins will likely be replaced by second-year man Isa Abdul-Quddus. Also out for the Saints is starting right tackle Zach Strief, who has been dealing with an ankle injury. William Robinson will probably start in place of Strief. But the Saints will be lacking depth on the offensive line, as backup tackle Charles Brown will also miss the game due to a knee injury. This should help a Bucs’ pass rush that has waned in recent weeks. Cornerback Corey White and running back Chris Ivory will also be out for the Saints, but they have depth at the running back position so Ivory’s absence shouldn’t be a problem.
Ivory has been pushed back in the Saints’ running back rotation because of solid play from starter Pierre Thomas and the return of Darren Sproles from injury. Ivory is still in the mix along with Mark Ingram, but his playing time has been limited recently.
The injury to Jenkins should help Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who has struggled with accuracy lately, in the passing game. On the flipside, because of Strief’s injury, the Saints’ running game might struggle against a Bucs’ run defense that’s best in the NFL.
Full Injury Report
DE Michael Bennett (shoulder)
CB Anthony Gaitor (hamstring)
T Jamon Meredith (ankle)
DT Roy Miller (head)
CB LeQuan Lewis (knee)
DE Da’Quan Bowers (not injury related, hamstring)
RB Jed Collins (toe)
T Charles Brown (knee)
RB Chris Ivory (hamstring)
S Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring)
T Zach Strief (ankle)
CB Corey White (knee)
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Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.