NEW ORLEANS (at Tampa Bay)
Only two defenses have allowed more points than the Bucs, but we'll stop short of calling this game a layup. While Tampa Bay has allowed at least 4 TDs in half of its games, all of those have been played on the road. The Bucs have ...
... allowed 3, 3, 3, 1, 1, and 2 TDs in their six games at home. The Saints, meanwhile, haven't been as effective outside the Superdome. All but two of their games with 4 TDs have come at home. Just 3, 3, 2 and 1 TDs in the road games against the Giants, Ravens, Vikings and Cowboys. This isn't a new trend. When the Saints came to this stadium in Week 17 last year, the offense had an off game, losing 31-24 (with one of the touchdowns coming on a kickoff return). New Orleans, in fact, hasn't put up dominating numbers in any of its last five games at Tampa Bay.
|Saints at Tampa Bay|
New Orleans the last two years has had a chameleon offense. Sometimes they'll come out and throw it all over the place. Other times, they'll bang away relentlessly with the running game. This seems more likely to be one of the run-oriented weeks. They tend to show up more often on the road. The Saints ran for 143, 170, 134 and 244 yards in their wins at Atlanta, New York, Baltimore and Cincinnati (with a combined 9 TD runs). Such an approach would make a lot of sense this week, with Tampa Bay having struggled against the run often. At the start of the year, the Bucs were overplaying the run, forcing teams to pass. But they changed gears after firing defensive coordinator Mike Smith, and they've mostly been lousy against the run since. They've allowed at least 138 rushing yards in five of their last six games. So while the Saints haven't run the ball much ...
This report is taken from today's Week 14 edition of Fantasy Index Weekly. The newsletter includes our player rankings and 21 pages of matchup previews, plus stat projections and custom rankings for the games being played this weekend.
... in either of the last two games against the Bucs (both losses), we're figuring they'll dial it up big-time this week, possibly running for some obscene total like 180 yards. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined to run for 145 yards and score 2 TDs when the Saints used the ground game to beat Tampa Bay 30-10 in the middle of the 2017 season. That's the kind of blueprint we're expecting they'll try to duplicate. In their eight games together this year, Kamara has averaged 58 rushing and 27 receiving yards, with 9 TDs. Ingram has averaged 58 rushing and 17 receiving yards in those games, with 5 TDs. We're slotting them both higher than that. ... You can always look really dumb when you bench Drew Brees. Prior to the down game at Dallas, he had thrown 15 TDs in his previous four games. He's passed for more than 345 yards in five games this year. That's the upside that you risk losing out on. But with the Saints entering different games with different objectives, there are also plenty of down weeks. Brees has finished with fewer than 220 yards in five games. If the Saints come out and try to control the game with the run, Brees could have a modest day. While the Bucs rank 30th in pass defense, Brees has thrown for more than 265 yards in only one of his six games on the road. But while our hunch is Brees won't come up with his monster game, we're leery of downgrading him too far. The Saints have run for at least 130 yards seven times this year, and Brees in those games has averaged 281 passing yards, with 20 TDs. The Bucs have allowed 28 TD passes, 2nd-most in the league. ... We'll call it an average situation for the receivers. On the one hand, maybe the Saints in this game rely more on the run. But at the same time, how far are you going to downgrade Michael Thomas when he's playing against the league's 3rd-worst pass defense? The Bucs have allowed the 2nd-most TD passes in the league. Thomas caught 16 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown against Tampa Bay in Week 1 (though the Saints got unbalanced in that game, running for only 43 yards). For the season, Thomas averages 93 yards, with 9 TDs. TreQuan Smith is the other starter, and he's come up with two big games at home (13 catches for 268 yards and 3 TDs against Washington and Philadelphia). But he's caught only 8 passes for 85 yards, with 1 TD in his last five other games. He doesn't look particularly likely to hit this week. Keith Kirkwood should also play plenty, but he hasn't been fully worked in the offense yet. Kirkwood has scored two weeks in a row, but he's also caught only 1 pass two weeks in a row. ... The Saints are using three tight ends, and none of them look compelling. Josh Hill tends to play the most, but he's been mostly a blocker -- 12 catches in 12 games. Dan Arnold has been starting to play more recently; he's caught 8 passes and a touchdown in his last three games. But we can't guarantee he'll be on the field much. Benjamin Watson caught 26 passes and 2 TDs in the first eight games, but his role seems to be declining. He's been playing less, and he's caught only 2 passes in his last four games. ... We're ranking Wil Lutz higher than usual. While he scored only 4 points last week at Dallas, he's actually tended to play his best games on the road (where the offense hasn't been as consistent putting the ball in the end zone). The Saints scored at least 12 kicking points in their wins at Atlanta, New York, Minnesota and Cincinnati. ... The Saints Defense has been coming on strong, with 20 sacks and 6 interceptions in the last four games. It had only 17 sacks and 4 interceptions in its first eight games. They'll take on an offense that at times has been plagued by errors. The Bucs have thrown a league-high 23 interceptions -- 5 more than anyone else. But Jameis Winston has cleaned things up recently. He's taken 5 sacks in his last two games, but with no interceptions or fumbles.