By Max Luckan
The 2013 NFL regular season is finally underway. Last Sunday, some teams got the season off to a good start with a victory, while other teams looked like they were still stuck in the preseason. The New Orleans Saints were not one of those teams. The Saints were able to fight off the Atlanta Falcons in their first game of the season and come out with a key early victory. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a close game against the New York Jets in Week 1 and won’t have it easy against the Saints in Week 2. But the Bucs are looking to get a win in their home opener.
It’s still very early in the season and nothing has been decided in the NFC South yet, but the Saints hold a 1-0 record after their victory over the Falcons, which also gives them a 1-0 record in the division. The Saints beat a very good Falcons team and seem to be back to their usual form with head coach Sean Payton back. And they’ll look to improve to 2-0 against a Bucs team that suffered a disappointing loss.
Saints on Offense
The Bucs know what they are going to get out of Saints quarterback Drew Brees, but they likely still won’t be able to stop their high-octane offense. Against the Falcons, Brees threw for 357 yards and two touchdowns, which given Brees’ stats in recent years, may seem sort of average for him.
It’s no secret that the Saints will try to throw the ball on offense. They will especially try to test the improved secondary of the Bucs in order to see if it’s really better than last season. But slowly, the Saints are building a strong and consistent running game with three running backs. Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, and Darren Sproles all carried the ball at least eight times against the Falcons, and the Saints will try to utilize a three-pronged rushing attack going forward.
Saints on Defense
New Orleans had a bad year last season on defense. The Saints gave up an average of 440 yards per game on defense last season, which was good for last in the NFL. But new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has the defensive squad motivated.
They will be without middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma for at least the first eight weeks as he recovers from knee surgery, but the Saints are confident that the defense is improved. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for over 300 yards in Week 1, but New Orleans was able to hold Falcons running back Steven Jackson to just 77 yards on the ground.
Rob Ryan likes to bring a lot of pressure, which is something the Saints didn’t do much last season. And they are hoping that increased pressure on the quarterback will lead to more turnovers.
Saints Players to Watch
Drew Brees: Obviously, Brees is an elite quarterback. But it will be interesting to see how he plans to attack Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis, or if he decides to stay away from Revis Island.
David Hawthorne: The sixth-year linebacker was inserted into the starting lineup for the injured Vilma. He had four tackles against the Falcons and should improve every week.
Darren Sproles: Sproles had eight carries for 22 yards and six receptions for 88 yards in Week 1. The Bucs will have their hands full with Sproles, who brings two dimensions of offense.
This game is a divisional rivalry so it should be entertaining. Bucs head coach Greg Schiano has never faced Saints head coach Sean Payton, as Payton was suspended last season. But the Bucs are 17-25 against the Saints all-time, though this one can go either way.
For more Bucs news and updates, visit Tampa Bay Bucs Central.
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. Max is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.