We made it through Wild Card Weekend and the Divisional Round is here!
We’re looking at each matchup and diving into the history between the teams, the keys to victory for each side and a prediction on how we think it will play out.
In this preview, we’re looking at the Saints opening the doors to the Superdome to host the Buccaneers.
New Orleans defeated the Bucs in both of their regular season meetings this year. Drew Brees excelled in these with games with a total of 382 yards and 6 TDs. The low passing yards across two games is because the Saints dominated by a combined score of 72-26, so there was not a big need to pass often.
Tom Brady struggled in these matchups, throwing for 448 total yards with 2 TDs and 5 INTs. The Superdome has shown Brady good times though as his 2017 visit included 447 yards and 3 TDs, with one being a 53-yard TD to Rob Gronkowski (also now a Buccaneer).
A big talking point will be how it is difficult for a team to go 3-0 in one season vs. the same opponent. This idea has been debunked though, as since 1970 14 of the 21 teams who were 2-0 vs. a team went on to win the third game as well. The last team to do it? The New Orleans Saints in 2018 when they beat the Carolina Panthers 31-26 in the Superdome.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Keys to Victory: Minimize Mistakes
Tampa turned the ball over six times in its two losses to New Orleans this season. Brady also threw nearly half of his interceptions this season to Saints defenders.
The Saints defense led the league in interceptions and is likely in Brady’s head a bit after the two previous meetings. The Bucs can gain some confidence in knowing that Brady always comes to play in the postseason and has only thrown 10 total interceptions in 14 career games in the Divisional Round. Keeping the ball in Brady’s hands and ensuring the Bucs finish off their drives will be a big step in this game not playing out like the previous two.
New Orleans Saints Keys to Victory: Get Some Anti-Venom For Their Playoff Snake Bite
Here’s how the last three postseasons have gone for the Saints:
- 2018 – Lost in Minnesota in the Divisional Round on a last second play that is literally called a “miracle”
- 2019 – Lost at home in OT in the NFC Championship Game to the Rams after suffering a blown non-PI call that was so egregious the NFL changed its rules for a season
- 2020 – Lost at home in OT on Wild Card Weekend to an inferior Vikings team
These things are not easy for a team to shake. Add in the fact this playoff run is Brees’ last and there is a lot of pressure riding on this game for the Saints.
No one will be able to say much if they lose in Lambeau next week. But if they get upset in the playoffs yet again to a team they manhandled twice during the season? That’s simply a terrible way for the Brees Era to end.
The Saints need to handle their business in this game and prove the Brees/Payton SB win was no fluke. And even if this game starts going the same as the previous two, the Saints can’t let up until the final second considering who is standing on the other sideline.
Prediction: Brady Outlasts Brees
Take Brees’ announcement that he would retire after this year and it feels like it might put too much pressure on the Saints to send him off in glory. Add that to what has to be a level of over-confidence after how this season’s matchups have gone. Then sprinkle in a bit of the Ghosts of Saints Playoffs Past from the last few years and throw in a dash of how difficult it is to make Tom Brady look human three games in a row. Put it all together and it’s a dangerous recipe for New Orleans in this game and it likely won’t result in a tasty gumbo for Saints fans.
And that right there is why you come here for NFL Playoff Previews.
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