SINK OR SWIM: Saints at Buccaneers Game Day Prediction

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Dec 13, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) makes a pass while pressured by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. The New Orleans Saints won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Saints defense vs Buccaneers offense

The news this week that Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro would drop his appeal and serve a four game suspension for PED violation was a “dagger to the heart” for a defense that had been playing much better over the teams last seven games.

Vaccaro is quickly progressing into a Pro Bowl-caliber defensive back, and his loss leaves a Saints defensive backfield that has been undermanned most of the year even further depleted.

Tampa Bay wideout Mike Evans is the most underrated “elite” receiver in the league, but other than breakout tight end Cameron Brate; the Buccaneers do not have any accomplished targets for quarterback Jameis Winston.

The Bucs do have a very good running back in Doug Martin, but he has been hampered by injuries most of the season, although he has managed to play in Tampa’s last 4 games.

Saints linebacker Craig Robertson may very well sit out due to injury as well, so all eyes will be on Nate Stupar and 2016 disappointment Stephone Anthony to effectively take his place.

Look for Delvin Breaux to be locked on Evans whenever possible, and for New Orleans to blitz Winston heavily. Pressuring Winston is the Number #1 key for this defense today: to stop him from finding the numerous opening that the Saints secondary is likely to allow.

Tampa Bay has a very talented interior offensive line, so D-Tackles Sheldon Rankins and Nick Fairley will need to play very well; not only applying their own pressure but freeing up Cam Jordan and Dannell Ellerbe to pressure Winston from the outside.

Winston doesn’t run often, but moves around the pocket to create time for his targets to break open down field. The Saints defense will need to get the young Bucs talent on the ground often, and Breaux’s ability to contain Evans are the main keys to watch here.

One quick note with regard to special teams: Tampa Bay has had many of the same kicking woes that Saints fans have been forced to watch out of their own team.

The Bucs invested a high draft choice to bring in kicker Roberto Aguayo from Florida State, but have been largely disappointed in the results thus far. Aguayo has made only 15 of his 22 attempts, is even more inconsistent from beyond 30 yards out, and has crippled his team with untimely misses all season long.

It is probably safe to say that fans of either team do not want to see this game decided by a last minute field goal.