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Sporting News Saints Bucs Matchup Analysis and Prediction

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; This is from The Sporting News game Matchup section Why To Watch The tides have turned in this matchup. The Bucs, for the first time in years, are in the spoiler role. The Saints, a game ahead of the Bucs ...

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Old 12-02-2003, 01:14 AM   #1
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Sporting News Saints Bucs Matchup Analysis and Prediction

This is from The Sporting News game Matchup section

Why To Watch

The tides have turned in this matchup. The Bucs, for the first time in years, are in the spoiler role. The Saints, a game ahead of the Bucs in the NFC South, still have an outside chance of earning the final NFC wild-card berth. . . .

The Saints have won their past three games against Tampa Bay -- all as underdogs -- but now face the pressure of playing as the favorite. . . .

The Bucs are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs after a demoralizing loss at Jacksonville, but it will be interesting to see if coach Jon Gruden can motivate his team and finish the season strong. . . .

The once-vaunted Bucs defense is giving up 111.8 yards rushing per game and will face its stiffest challenge -- the Saints' Deuce McAllister, who has rushed for 100-plus yards in each of his past nine games.



Buccaneers Keys For Success

1. Protect quarterback Brad Johnson. There is no excuse for the inconsistent play of the Bucs' offensive line. It is a veteran group that has played together for a while and in a system that emphasizes quick throws to limit hits on the quarterback. The Bucs, however, lack a downfield receiver to stretch defenses, so opponents are bunching up near the line and blitzing more often. Johnson typically throws quickly to his hot reads but has been under too much pressure lately because his veteran line is doing a poor job of communicating and picking up blitzes and stunts. Johnson was sacked twice last weekend, forced to run two other times and was hit on several more occasions. If the line doesn't do a better job this week, the Bucs' offensive woes will continue.

2. Wear down the Saints' defensive line. The best way to attack the Saints is to use a power running game to wear down their defensive line. Against offenses like the Panthers and Colts that stick with the run, the Saints' lack of depth and stamina was exposed late in those games. The Saints have good athletes but are undersized and wear down quicker than almost any other NFL front seven. The running back trio of Michael Pittman, Thomas Jones and Aaron Stecker should get close to 40 carries in this game.

3. Hold up when forced into cover-3 defense. The key to stopping New Orleans is to neutralize McAllister with eight-man fronts. The Bucs have had trouble against solid running games, so look for them to use strong safety John Lynch near the line to create an eight-man front on most plays. The key will be the Bucs' ability to hold up in cover-3 against three-receiver sets -- a huge weakness most of the season.



Saints Keys For Success

1. Spread out the defense with multi-receiver sets. Saints coaches have a dilemma. They must use three-receiver sets to spread out the Bucs and test their ailing secondary, but they have been so frustrated with wide receiver Donte' Stallworth that they made him inactive last weekend. If Stallworth is active this week, it gives them their best chance to spread the field horizontally and vertically with him, Joe Horn and Jerome Pathon. If Stallworth remains in the doghouse, rookie Talman Gardner will be the No. 3. Gardner has shown flashes but has dropped too many passes.

2. Keep pounding away with McAllister. No matter the situation at wide receiver, the Saints must spread the field and run the ball. McAllister, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, is at his best when running behind a five-man line against five- and six-man fronts because he has the rare vision and burst to find slight creases and get through them -- much like the Vikings' Robert Smith did in the late '90s. Bucs defenders are demoralized and are pointing fingers at each other as the losses mount, too.

3. Be aggressive in coverage. Defensive coordinator Rick Venturi has adjusted recently to prevent big plays. The Saints are not using much press coverage, instead having the cornerbacks give extra cushion and keep everything in front of them. In this game, however, look for the Saints to be a bit more aggressive because the Bucs lack the speedy receivers to exploit the Saints' below-average cornerbacks. The Bucs' passing game features a lot of quick throws to horizontal routes; the best way to defend the Bucs is to use press coverage to impede the receivers' release and to drop linebackers into underneath zones.



Injury Update

Buccaneers

WR Joe Jurevicius: Knee (12/1).
Jurevicius was on the field for just one play Sunday because of swelling in his right knee. The Bucs' team site reports that he might be placed on injured reserve. "For whatever reason, after a prolonged period of running the swelling returns," coach Jon Gruden said in his Monday press conference. "He gets the fluid taken out, he gets treatment, he looks back to normal, he resumes running and the swelling returns."

WR Keenan McCardell: Hip (11/29).
McCardell was limited in Friday's practice but is listed as probable.


Saints

RB James Fenderson: Ankle (12/1).
Fenderson re-injured the same ankle that had sidelined him for the previous three games. He was the primary backup to Deuce McAllister.

RB Fred McAfee: Ankle (12/1).
McAfee has a strained left ankle. The special teams ace could miss a week or two. He will be difficult to replace because of his experience and savvy on coverage and return units. (Jeff Duncan/TSN)

LB Cie Grant: Calf (12/1).
Grant strained his right calf Sunday. He rarely played on defense but was starting to make contributions on special teams. It is unclear how long Grant will be sidelined. (Jeff Duncan/TSN)


Pick: Saints 23, Buccaneers 20



Key Individual Matchups by The War Room




» Bucs RT Kenyatta Walker vs. Saints DE Charles Grant | Bucs CB Tim Wansley vs. Saints WR Joe Horn | Bucs WR Keenan McCardell vs. Saints CB Ashley Ambrose

Bucs RT Kenyatta Walker vs. Saints DE Charles Grant
With defensive end Darren Howard now healthy, Grant is seeing fewer double-teams and thus has been more disruptive. Grant still is young and must improve his footwork and technique, but he has terrific size, power, quickness and burst to the quarterback.

Walker has flashed the potential to develop into a solid starter with good size and quick footwork, but he has been inconsistent because of his tendency to play high and his inability to finish blocks. If Walker is left one-on-one against Grant -- a likely scenario for most of the game -- Grant should be productive.

Grant is strong enough to overpower Walker at the point of attack in the running game and will exploit Walker's inconsistency on passing plays.

ÂÂÂ* Walker Scouting Report
Strengths: Possesses rare combination of size, speed and strength. Has good lower-body strength bulk to wear down undersized ends.

Weaknesses: Despite power, doesn't explode out of stance, isn't dominant at point of attack and lacks mean streak. Doesn't take great angles, show feel for game and assume good position.

Bottom line: Walker must be more aggressive and start utilizing technique to take advantage of his outstanding tools, or he might lose his starting job.
ÂÂÂ* Grant Scouting Report
Strengths: Is best at disrupting plays in backfield. Gets a great jump at the snap. Locates the ball, and spots screens and draws. Shows good speed, and never gives up. Chases down plays from behind. Shows good burst off the edge. Is a relentless pass rusher. Is effective on stunts.

Weaknesses: Plays too high. Can't beat double-teams. Struggles to make plays when reached. Must use hands better. Misses tackles trying to generate turnovers. Is lacking against the run.

Bottom line: Grant has great upside, but he must improve his technique to attain premier status. He is active against the run and should be more productive this season.


Bucs CB Tim Wansley vs. Saints WR Joe Horn
If the Bucs are to use eight-man fronts to slow Deuce McAllister, they must take some chances with Wansley in man-to-man or cover-3 coverage against Horn -- a huge advantage for the Saints.

Quarterback Aaron Brooks must go to Horn if he sees Wansley in man-to-man coverage. Wansley bites often on play-action fakes and lacks the quickness, speed or experience to hold up against an elite receiver like Horn.

ÂÂÂ* Wansley Scouting Report
Marginal size but top-end speed. Instinctive, tough, aggressive. Technically sound. Good footwork and recognition skills. Too small to match up outside.
ÂÂÂ* Horn Scouting Report
Strengths: Has good size and speed. Is quicker than fast with great short area burst. Shows some big play flair. Bursts to the ball well. Can adjust when the ball is airborne and shows excellent body control. Is tough and willing to go up and make the catch in traffic.

Weaknesses: Is neither getting younger nor faster. Has had some off-the-field problems. Can be inconsistent in running routes and has some trouble vs. zones. Gets caught up at the line against press coverage and can get frustrated at times. Takes some plays off.

Bottom line: Horn is 31 and lost half a step last season. He drops more catchable balls than most No. 1 receivers, but he still is one of the league's most productive.


Bucs WR Keenan McCardell vs. Saints CB Ashley Ambrose
McCardell no longer has the speed and quickness to gain separation against man-to-man coverage by running past cornerbacks. He typically uses savvy, sharp cuts and double-moves to gain separation nowadays. Against a fellow crafty veteran like Ambrose, McCardell will be limited in this game.

The Saints are at their best when they can leave Ambrose man-to-man outside because it allows free safety Tebucky Jones to help right cornerback Fred Thomas and allows strong safety Jay Bellamy to cheat up in run support.

If Carter can neutralize McCardell without help, it makes the Saints' defense a lot more versatile.

ÂÂÂ* McCardell Scouting Report
Strengths: Savvy with good size and great hands. Excels in open field and knows how to set up defensive backs on breaks. Runs smooth, crisp routes. Creates space with quickness and suddenness.

Weaknesses: Has lost speed and burst with age. Rarely gets over the top of defensive backs. Lacks strength and the ideal frame. Gets pushed around at times. Has trouble eluding open-field tackles.

Bottom line: At 33, McCardell is limited to being a possession receiver. He isn't a deep threat or as explosive as he once was, but he still is one of the league's most consistent route runners.
ÂÂÂ* Ambrose Scouting Report
Strengths: Has excellent diagnose skills and is never out of position. Is technically sound and does not make a lot of mistakes. Has adequate size and very good quickness. Takes excellent angles to the ball. Likes to play physical at times. Rarely gives up a big play.

Weaknesses: Is not as fast or as quick as he used to be. Does not make as many big plays as some top corners do. Age is a concern. Is not very strong and only marginal against the run.

Bottom line: Ambrose is a very consistent cover corner, but he’s no longer able to cover top NFL receivers one-on-one without help.


[Edited on 12/2/2003 by saint5221]
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Old 12-02-2003, 02:04 PM   #2
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Sporting News Saints Bucs Matchup Analysis and Prediction

Good stuff...
Against offenses like the Panthers and Colts that stick with the run, the Saints\' lack of depth and stamina was exposed late in those games. The Saints have good athletes but are undersized and wear down quicker than almost any other NFL front seven. AGREED... Sort of, he picks two games we had 1/2 our starters injured and couldn\'t bring in help due to roster restrictions. But he has a point. Thats why Bellamy leads the team in tackles this year and Knight led the team last year.
If your safeties lead the team in tackles, your front seven suck.

Hold up when forced into cover-3 defense. The key to stopping New Orleans is to neutralize McAllister with eight-man fronts. The Bucs have had trouble against solid running games, so look for them to use strong safety John Lynch near the line to create an eight-man front on most plays. The key will be the Bucs\' ability to hold up in cover-3 against three-receiver sets -- a huge weakness most of the season.
Agreed. This is why we should pass all day long if they stay in 8-man fronts. McCarthy for some reason just doesn\'t get it. If we truly have a top 5 QB, we\'ll toast \'em all day long. Forget Deuce\'s 100 yard record, PASS AGAINST 8-MAN FRONTS!!! Deuce couldn\'t care less about that stupid record!

Whether we agree or disagree; its all for Him.
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Old 12-03-2003, 01:19 PM   #3
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Sporting News Saints Bucs Matchup Analysis and Prediction

Just a couple of updates on Tampa, two big losses for them both have placed on the IR list.

Buccaneers | Wansley Likely Done For Season
Tue, 2 Dec 2003 10:24:20 -0800

Rick Stroud, of the St. Petersburg Times, reports Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden said CB Tim Wansley (hamstring) will likely be placed on injured reserve. Wansley, who pulled a hamstring in Sunday\'s, Nov. 30, game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, had an MRI on Monday and could be lost for the season. He will be further evaluated.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Buccaneers | Jurevicius Could Be Done For Season
Tue, 2 Dec 2003 10:16:44 -0800

Rick Stroud, of the St. Petersburg Times, reports Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden said WR Joe Jurevicius (knee) is likely to be placed on injured reserve. Jurevicius, who has struggled to return from a torn MCL in his right knee, was too sore to play in Sunday\'s, Nov. 30, game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and has yet to heal from the injury that occurred in Week 2.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Buccaneers | Secondary To Be Shuffled
Mon, 1 Dec 2003 12:44:13 -0800

Roy Cummings, of the Tampa Tribune, reports the Tampa Bay Buccaneers plan to re-shuffle their secondary after CB Tim Wansley (hamstring) injured his hamstring. With Wansley\'s likely OUT for Week 14, the team will probably move S Dwight Smith to cornerback and S Jermaine Phillips would become the team\'s starting strong safety. The team may add a free agent cornerback later this week as well.
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Old 12-03-2003, 01:33 PM   #4
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Sporting News Saints Bucs Matchup Analysis and Prediction

Tampa Bay:
Decimated by injuries.
Extremely thin at WR.
No Running Game.
Thin at DB, reshuffled line-up.
Key WR kicked off team. 3rd best WR now out for year.
Demoralized by an upstart Jacksonville team on national TV.
Out of playoffs.


New Orleans:
Playing at home.
Relatively healthy.
Playoff hopes alive and well.
Match up with TB even when they are healthy.

If we lose this game we have absolutely NO excuse whatsoever, and we certainly won\'t deserve a playoff spot.


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Old 12-03-2003, 01:48 PM   #5
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Sporting News Saints Bucs Matchup Analysis and Prediction

That is what has me nervous about this one...we look to have the advantage here by far. Anyone who has been a Saints fan for several years should be quite accustomed to the choking that has occurred in these situations over the years.

The benfit to this is that if they pull out a victory it\'ll show us that they are a different team than the one\'s we\'ve seen the past couple years. A team that wins when it counts is hard to imagine in New Orleans, but it sure would be a welcome sight.

It\'s obvious that our boys have legitimate shot at winning out, but the game I\'m most worried about is against the Jaguars - a team playing much better than their record would indicate.
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Old 12-03-2003, 07:34 PM   #6
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Sporting News Saints Bucs Matchup Analysis and Prediction

Tweeky - you left out one MAJOR stat...

it\'s December.
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