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TALE OF THE TAPE

Week 16 Tale Of The Tape: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New Orleans Saints
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 18: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drops back to pass during the second half against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 18: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks to make a pass in the first quarter of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Quarterback
Winner The Bucs’ surge has been led by Jameis Winston’s talent and his ability to run the offense with consistency and mental toughness. Winston’s physical skills were off the chart when he was drafted in 2015 and they remain top-drawer. However, he has shown consistent improvement in each of his first two seasons and his progress is ahead of schedule.
Winner Drew Brees has a chance to have a big game at home against a divisional opponent. However, he can’t force the ball and must demonstrate patience because the Tampa Bay defense has improved so much throughout the season. Brees is a sure-fire Hall of Famer in his first year of eligibility, and he remains a major threat to help the Saints steal an important game.
Offense
The Bucs have gotten a decent contribution from their running game from Jacquizz Rodgers and Doug Martin, and that has been vital. Martin attacks the hole and is not afraid to take on bigger tacklers. Wideout Mike Evans is Winston’s favorite receiver and is capable of dominating with his size and strength. Tight end Cameron Brate is a tough third-down receiver.
Winner The Saints are having an impressive year on the offensive side of the ball, and if the defense had stepped up, they might be competing for a playoff spot. Running back Mark Ingram has exceeded expectations this year and is a skilled between-the-tackles runner. Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas are both big-play receivers who can take over and dominate a game.
Defense
Winner The Bucs have some vulnerabilities on defense and that’s why they rank 23rd in yardage allowed, but this unit has improved and have come up with big plays at key moments. Back-to-back victories over Kansas City and Seattle were led by the defense, and linebacker Kwon Alexander is the team’s leading tackler. Strong safety Chris Conte has come up with big plays.
The Saints have a lot of problems on the defensive side of the ball, but there has been some improvement from a year ago. The Saints actually have been decent against the run (13th), but much of that is due to the softness of their pass defense. If the Saints are going to slow down the Tampa Bay offense, defensive end Cameron Jordan must have a big game rushing Winston.
Special Teams
Winner The Bucs have done a decent job of covering punts, but they have had a few issues doing the same with kickoffs. Adam Humphries has not broken a return of longer than 25 yards, so they are not a threat to break a long return. PK Roberto Aguayo has struggled in his rookie season.
The Saints have been surprisingly effective covering punts this season and they have not allowed a return of longer than 18 yards. Tommylee Lewis has shown some flash as a return specialist. Will Lutz is an ordinary placekicker who has struggled on kicks of 50 yards or more.

The Winner Is

Winner Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3 out of 4

The Bucs can’t afford to let this game slip away, but the Saints figure to provide a major challenge at home because of their high-powered offense.

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