NEW ORLEANS, La. — A week after humiliating the Chicago Bears 38-3, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers return to wrap up the first half of the 2021 season with a divisional matchup against the New Orleans Saints. But this isn't the Saints team of years past.
The primary reason for that will be under center. Gone is future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. He's been replaced by a very familiar face to Buccaneers fans, former number one overall pick Jameis Winston. While his career in Tampa Bay fizzled out in spectacular form, he has enjoyed a renaissance year in 2021.
Winston is completing nearly 60 percent of his passes and thrown 13 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. That's much better than his infamous 33 touchdown, 30 interception performance his final year in Tampa. And riding Winston's arm and running back Alvin Kamara's legs has sent the Saints to a 4-2 record to start the year.
The primary catalyst for the Saints success has been stellar play from their defense. The defense ranks second in the league in points allowed, second in touchdown passes allowed (6), and third in the league in interceptions (9). Overall, New Orleans is giving up just fewer than 17 points per game this season.
But, they also haven't played the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers offensive juggernaut yet.
It's hard to find superlatives to put with Brady's performance this year other than just chalking it up to he's the greatest quarterback i the history of the game. In 2021, Brady has thrown for 21 touchdowns, three interceptions, and connects on two out of every three passes he throws during a game.
Brady has spread the touchdowns around as well, throwing a touchdown pass to at lest six different teammates this year, making defenses pick their poison when the Bucs' offense is on the field.
The Bucs' offensive line also deserves credit for the passing game prowess. Despite throwing the ball twice as many times as the Saints this season, the Bucs have only given up two more sacks than the Saints all year (9 for Bucs; 11 for Saints). Overall, the Bucs' offensive line has a sack percentage of just 2.9 percent on the season!
New Orleans Saints (4-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-1)
Sunday, October 31, 4:25 p.m. ET
Caesar's Superdome (capacity: 73,000)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Favorite: Buccaneers (-5.0)
Fun fact to watch for:
Mike Evans needs two touchdown catches to tie the Bucs' all-time record for touchdown production at 71. The current leader is former running back Mike Alstott.