Without question, the most anticipated game on the Week 1 NFL schedule is the NFC South showdown between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints. At home, the Saints are 3.5-point favorites with an over/under of 48 points.
With future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady signing with Tampa Bay during the offseason, the Buccaneers are suddenly the most intriguing team in football. Of course, the Bucs haven’t reached the playoffs since 2007 and haven’t won a playoff game since winning Super Bowl XXXVII. That’s a long history of losing in Tampa Bay that Brady will have to overcome.
Meanwhile, another quarterback in his 40’s is hoping to bring his team to the Super Bowl. Drew Brees is entering what could be his final season with the Saints, putting the pressure on him and head coach Sean Payton to lead New Orleans back to the Super Bowl more than a decade after winning it together. New Orleans has lost playoff games in heartbreaking fashion each of the last three years, which should have Brees and company motivated coming into 2020.
No Let Down
Even with Brees nearing the end of his career, there has been little drop-off in his performance; in fact, he’s as sharp as ever, completing 74% of his passes last season while throwing just four interceptions. That number may be inflated due to Brees only playing in 11 games due to an injury, but Brees is still doing a great job of limiting his mistakes.
Brees also has a talented supporting cast around him that’s been bolstered by the addition of Emmanuel Sanders. He gives New Orleans a true number two receiver to help take some of the attention off Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara.
In Week 1, the Saints will be facing a Tampa Bay defense that has a lot to prove after conceding 28 points per game last season. While the turnover-prone offense regularly put them in difficult positions, the Bucs still need to improve significantly on that side of the ball. A young Tampa Bay secondary will be challenged right off the bat, but the front-7 is in great shape, especially if Shaq Barrett can continue to pressure quarterbacks the way he did last season.
Locked and Loaded
Brady could not have asked for a better supporting cast upon his arrival in Tampa Bay. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin made up one of the best receiving tandems in football last year. With tight end Rob Gronkowski joining his former quarterback, Brady has a familiar face he will look to for big plays. The Tampa Bay rushing attack remains a question mark heading into the season; however, the Bucs have tried to address that issue by bringing in LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette.
The New Orleans defense certainly won’t make things easy for Brady in his Bucs debut. The Saints are deep at all three levels and might have one of the few secondaries in football with a fighting chance to contain Tampa Bay’s receivers. Plus, don’t forget Cameron Jordan and his 15.5 sacks from last season.
On paper, this game could go either way. While the teams appear far more evenly matched than last season, keep in mind the Saints’ early-season struggles over the previous few years. Since 2014, the Saints are 2-10 in Weeks 1 and 2. That’s enough to bet on the Buccaneers as road underdogs in Week 1.
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