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2021 NFC Divisional Preview: Buccaneers and Saints Renew Rivalry

Brady vs Brees part three is here. The two future Hall of Famers face-off possibly for the last time this weekend, so that makes it the perfect time for an NFC divisional preview. So far this season, the New Orleans Saints hold the advantage in head to head record. In the two regular-season meetings, New Orleans ran away with comfortable wins. In the second game in Tampa Bay, especially, the Saints crushed the Buccaneers. None of that matters anymore, as it all comes down to this final battle with all the proverbial marbles on the line. What should fans expect to see this time around? Come find out in our 2021 NFC Divisional Preview!

NFC Divisional Preview: Saints Getting Healthy For One Last Ride

The Saints roll into the Superdome with a “Super Bowl or bust" mentality after experiencing three years of playoff heartbreak. New Orleans went all-in by adding players such as Janoris Jenkins and Emmanuel Sanders. Cap armageddon looms large; meanwhile, Brees looks close to calling it a day in the NFL. It seems like it is the last year of this Saints championship window, so for Saints fans, losing on Sunday is unimaginable.

After enduring all sorts of injuries and Covid-19 drama, New Orleans is finally starting to get healthy. Michael Thomas is back, Tre"Quan Smith is trending in the right direction and Alvin Kamara came off the Covid-19 list last week. Despite all the issues, the Saints are the only playoff team to rank in the top-five for scoring offense and scoring defense.

The Saints will obviously try to replicate the blueprints of the two games that they have already won against the Buccaneers this season. In both games, New Orleans was able to give Tampa Bay a “death by 1,000 papercuts". The Saints simply sat back and took what the defense gave them… all game long. In both games combined, Brees only averaged a minuscule 6.1 yards per attempt. He didn"t need to, however, as the Saints ran the ball extremely effectively. As boring as it might make this NFC divisional preview, it is probably in the best interests of the Saints to use the same strategy yet again against a young and fast Buccaneers defense.

NFC Divisional Preview: Can the Buccaneers Get to a Home Super Bowl?

For the Buccaneers part in this 2021 NFC divisional preview, it comes down to one thing: getting a ring. When Brady decided to join Tampa Bay, there was only one goal in his mind; to grab a seventh Lombardi Trophy and prove he can win one without Bill Belichick. Brady is the most significant competitor in team sports history and he"s out to show that his relocation to Florida wasn"t an early retirement.

He is here to win a ring, and if he does it, it will be on his home turf (the Buccaneers are aiming to be the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in their home stadium). Rob Gronkowski joined him in Tampa, then Antonio Brown signed on to play for the Buccaneers as well. Adding these dynamic playmakers to the players who were already on the roster saw Bucs finish third in scoring offense.

On defense, Tampa also possesses dynamic playmakers. Devin White is a special player on this unit and could return from injury to play in this game. Todd Bowles" defense loves to bring the heat to the opposition and Bowles owns plenty of capable athletes to pressure the offense. Bowles is getting invites to interviews for a vacant head coaching job. If he wants to build up his resume for potential jobs, he needs to extract the most from the talent at his disposal come Sunday.

TAMPA, FLORIDA – NOVEMBER 08: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers huddle during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on November 08, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

NFC Divisional Preview: Where Will the Game Be Won?

If the Saints hope to replicate the success of the first two games, they will need Trey Hendrickson back. Hendrickson enjoyed a tremendous third year as he notched 13.5 sacks. He was also dominant in the second game at Raymond James Stadium. Per ESPN, the Bucs sit 17th in pass block success, that isn"t good when they face a stacked front like the Saints have. This may be the key to this entire NFC divisional preview, as much like most quarterbacks, Brady struggles the most when facing pressure.

Having clean protection becomes more important when you factor in that the Buccaneers are the third most pass-happy team in the league. In the last few weeks, we"ve watched the Bucs offense come to life, and they"ve blown teams away. Antonio Brown looks to be getting back to his old self and his connection with Brady looks fantastic.

On the other side of the ball, as mentioned in the earlier portion of this NFC divisional preview, Tampa is FAST. This, in part, made the Buccaneers the best run defense in the NFL. However, they were gashed twice by New Orleans for over 150 yards. The Saints may simply have their number.

Sean Payton owns three runners he can unleash and with Andrus Peat back in the offensive line, the Saints will look to run the ball straight down the Buccaneers" throats. The Saints are third in the NFL in average time of possession; it is their blueprint for success. New Orleans wants to keep the opposing offense off the field and grind the defense into the dirt.

NFC Divisional Preview: The End of an Era?

Let"s face it, this NFC divisional preview is probably the last time we"re going to talk about a Brady vs Brees matchup ever again. We have watched these two battle it out for the NFL"s all-time passing records for years now, and through it all, Brady and Brees are probably both in the top five of all-time quarterbacks. Neither players will want their season to end here, and for Brees, there may be no more chapters to write.

It is the biggest game of the weekend, two sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famers doing battle one more time to create one last chapter in their storybook rivalry. It will be close; the Buccaneers are a better team now than they were in the previous game. Although the Saints may have won the first two meetings, you never know how a team is going to respond with their backs against the wall. That makes this one as much of a “toss-up" as any game this season.

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