Tampa Bay has won four of the last seven meetings, including five of the last seven road contests in the series. New Orleans leads the all-time series 22-15, and leads the series at 9-8 as NFC South rivals. The teams split the series last year, with New Orleans winning in Tampa in Week 11 and the Buccaneers prevailing at the Superdome in Week 16. The Buccaneers swept both contests in 2005 and 2007 after splitting in 2008, including a 10-3 victory in 2005 in a road contest played in Baton Rouge and a 27-13 in the 2005 regular season home finale, a victory that clinched the NFC South title for the Buccaneers. Prior to joining the NFC South, Tampa Bay had claimed three of the previous four meetings, including wins in both 1999 and 2001. The Bucs won the first game between the two clubs, a 33-14 triumph at the Superdome in 1977. Tampa Bay tied an NFL record, which has since been broken, by returning three interceptions for touchdowns. The victory marked the Bucs’ first regular season win after 26 consecutive losses. More than 8,000 fans greeted the team upon its return to One Buccaneer Place. Tampa Bay and New Orleans split the next four meetings, each winning two straight on the other team’s turf before the Saints assembled a six-game winning streak.
Date: Sunday, January 2, 2010
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET (noon CT)
Site: Louisiana Superdome (68,000)
2010 Records: Tampa Bay 9-6, New Orleans 11-4
Network Television: FOX
Play-by-Play: Thom Brennaman, Analyst: Brian Billick, Sideline: Charissa Thompson
Bucs Radio: US 103.5, flagship station (103.5 FM, 620 AM)
Play-by-Play: Gene Deckerhoff, Color: Dave Moore, Sideline: T.J. Rives
National Radio: Westwood One
Play-by-Play: Howard David, Color: Tony Boselli
Last Game: Tampa Bay defeated Seattle, 38-15; New Orleans won at Atlanta, 17-14
SERIES BY THE NUMBERS
Overall Regular Season Series:…………..New Orleans leads series, 22-15
Home Record vs. New Orleans Saints:…………………………………..6-10
Road Record vs. New Orleans Saints:……………………………………9-12
Current Streak:…………………………………………Saints, one game (2010)
Buccaneers Longest Streak:…………Two games, five times (last in 2007)
Saints Longest Streak:……………………………………Six games (1983-88)
Regular Season Point Total:………………….. Buccaneers 666 – Saints 754
Most Points, Buccaneers:…………………….. 48, Buccaneers 48-21 (2001)
Most Points, Saints:……………………………………44, Saints 44-34 (1987)
Most Points, both teams:…………………………….78, Saints 44-34 (1987)
Fewest Points, Buccaneers:…………………………….. 3, Saints 9-3 (1998)
Fewest Points, Saints:……………………………. 3, Buccaneers 10-3 (2005)
Fewest Points, both teams:…………………………… 12, Saints 9-3 (1998)
After finishing the 2009 season ranked 20th with 40 pass completions of 20+ yards, five of which resulted in touchdowns, the Buccaneers, led by QB Josh Freeman already have 46 completions of 20+ yards in 2010 with 10 of those going for scores. The team currently is tied for ninth-most pass completions of 20+ yards and tied for the second-most 20+ yard touchdown passes in the NFC. From 2000-09, the Bucs averaged just 37 receptions of 20 or more yards per season and are on pace for 49 this season.
The Buccaneers are also one of eight teams in the NFL, and one of three teams in the NFC, to have five different players catch a pass of 40+ yards (San Diego, 8; Oakland, 7; Baltimore, Cleveland and Seattle, 6; Jacksonville and New Orleans, 5) this season.
Players To Watch
Looking for a spark in the running game, the Buccaneers turned to undrafted rookie free agent RB LeGarrette Blount. Blount answered, providing an immediate impact, as he ranks among the league leaders in rushing for rookie running backs and has been nominated for Rookie of the Week four times.
He is currently tied for first in touchdowns (6), first in rushing yards (941), second in yards per carry (5.2) and first in yards per game (78.4) among rookie running backs. He also has the second, third and fourth longest rush (53, 48, 48 yards) of any rookie this season.
Since receiving the lions share of carries starting in week seven, Blount has amassed 911 rushing yards on 184 carries for an average of 4.95 yards per carry and five touchdowns for an a average of 91 yards per game.
This season, Freeman has been Mr. Third-Down, completing 78 of 130 pass attempts for 910 yards, five touchdowns and a completion percentage of 60% with one interception and a quarterback rating of 90.9. Of those 78 completions 49 have resulted in the Bucs picking up a first down. Freeman also currently ranks second in the NFC, and fourth in the NFL in fourth quarter passer rating (96.4) with a minimum of 30 attempts. His six interceptions are tied for the fewest in the NFL
Freeman has led the team to convert at least 40.0 percent of their third-down attempts in 11 of their 15 games, with five consecutive to start the season. It marked the first time in franchise history the team has had five consecutive games with at least a 40.0 percent third-down conversion rate.
On the year, he currently ranks sixth in the NFC in third down passer rating and has thrown just one interception on a third down play. His legs have been just as productive on third downs, as 25 of Freeman’s 64 runs this year have come on third down, with 19 of those resulting in first downs. Seven of his 19 third down scrambles have come on third-and-nine or longer. In just 15 games, Freeman has already converted five third-and-fours, seven third-and-one’s, two third-and-11s, two third-and-nine’s, a third-and-16, a third-and seven and a third-and-three by running.
In this year’s draft, 12 wide receivers were taken ahead of 2010 fourth-round draft pick (101st overall) WR Mike Williams. Though Williams wasn’t drafted highly, his talent and production on the field is leading some experts to consider him the “steal of the draft” and a possible Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Through his first 14 games as a pro, Williams has already been up for NFL Rookie of the Week five times, all but one after a Buccaneers victory.
Williams currently has the thirteenth-most receiving yards in the NFC and 20th most in the NFL. He also ranks tied for sixth in 25-plus yard receptions, in the NFL and 14th in YAC amongst receivers. Among rookie receivers, Williams is currently first in receptions (61), first in receiving yards (924) and first in receiving touchdowns (10). He is the only rookie in Buccaneers history to have 10+ receptions, 100+ receiving yards and 2+ touchdowns in first three games of career. He currently sits at number three for receptions by a Buccaneer rookie receiver, second in receiving yards, and in first with seven receiving touchdowns as a rookie.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
RB Earnest Graham (head)
WR Sammie Stroughter (hamstring)
T James Lee (ankle)
TE Kellen Winslow (knee)
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
WR Marques Colston (knee)
DT Anthony Hargrove (knee)
TE Jeremy Shockey (groin)
RB Pierre Thomas (ankle)
TE David Thomas (knee)
LB Anthony Waters (ankle)
DT Remi Ayodele (ankle)
DE Alex Brown (shoulder)
RB Reggie Bush (chest)
RB Chris Ivory (hamstring)
WR Robert Meachem (toe)
DT Jimmy Wilkerson (foot)
Saints Head Coach: Sean Payton
Saints Offensive Coordinator: Pete Carmichael, Jr.
Saints Defensive Coordinator: Gregg Williams
Saints Special Teams Coach: Greg McMahon
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS OFFENSE
Overall: 18th (336.3 ypg)
Rushing: 7th (127.8 ypg)
Passing: 21st (208.5 ypg)
Sacks Allowed: 9th (27)
Points Scored: 20th (21.2 ppg)
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS DEFENSE
Overall: 15th (334.5 ypg)
Rushing: 28th (133.4 ypg)
Passing: 6th (201.1 ypg)
Sacks: 3oth (23)
Points Allowed: 12th (20.3 ppg)
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS OFFENSE
Overall: 6th (377.0 ypg)
Rushing: 27th (94.2 ypg)
Passing: 2nd (282.8 ypg)
Sacks Allowed: 4th (23)
Points Scored: 10th (24.7 ppg)
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS DEFENSE
Overall: 5th (305.5 ypg)
Rushing: 18th (114.2 ypg)
Passing: 2nd (191.3 ypg)
Sacks: 16th (30)
Points Allowed: 6th (18.9 ppg)
Buc Central’s Prognostication:
As always we are not advocating gambling based on our views of the game, especially considering we typically are inclined to make such educated guesses using are heart rather the any rational thought applied to picking. We are merely giving an opinion of who we think has the best chance at securing a victory.