The New Orleans Saints roared back during head coach Sean Payton’s return, and now meet the frustrated Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
An improved Saints defense forced a late interception in the fourth quarter of last week’s 23-17 victory over Atlanta, and Drew Brees totaled 357 passing yards and one pick. Running back Darren Sproles led New Orleans with six catches for 88 yards, and receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jimmy Graham each caught a touchdown.
But under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the Saints created two turnovers and held the Falcons to 3-for-11 on third down.
Repeating that performance might prove difficult. Safety Roman Harper, who made the pivotal pick last week, is questionable with a knee injury, and cornerbacks Jabari Green and Patrick Robinson are also questionable with back and foot ailments.
Where the Saints kept their composure late, the Buccaneers watched their first game of the season slip away after an errant personal foul penalty led to an 18-17 loss to the New York Jets.
Lavonte David hit Jets quarterback Geno Smith late, and the 15-yard penalty gave kicker Nick Folk better field position for the 48-yard field goal with two seconds left.
In an otherwise plodding game, Tampa Bay only managed 250 total yards, the bulk coming from receiver Vincent Jackson’s seven catches for 154 yards.
Quarterback Josh Freeman struggled with his accuracy, going 15-for-31 for 210 yards, one touchdown and one pick. While running back Doug Martin had 65 yards and a touchdown, and Mike Wallace caught four balls for 52 yards and a score.
The Bucs have lost three of their last four games to New Orleans, including last year’s 41-0 blowout in December in which Brees threw four touchdowns to Freeman’s four picks.
The game begins at 4:05 p.m. ET and will be broadcast by FOX or watch a live online stream by purchasing NFL Game Access here.
Betting Odds: New Orleans is favored by 3.5 points.
Over/Under: 47 points
Prediction: New Orleans 31, Tampa Bay 17
Currently covering NBA, NFL, MLB, along with Real Madrid and Barcelona, focusing on trades, controversy, and injury updates. Joined IB Times in August 2012.