Key Matchups: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2018 NFL Campaign kicks off Sunday at 1pm ET in New Orleans against the Saints.
Season openers are always important as it can serve as a tone setter for the season, but to say this one carries more importance would be an understatement. Starting the season off with a victory over a division foe could prove huge, not to mention the bad blood that could carry over from the last time these two met in the big easy.
Yes the Saints do still have Drew Brees, but I listed this as number one because I feel this is the most important key to the game. If the Bucs can limit Kamara, I feel much better about a win on Sunday. The former third round pick rushed for 112 yards on just 19 carries in the two games against Tampa Bay last season. Thats an impressive 5.89 yards per carry.
On top of that, Kamara added 12 catches for 168 yards. Kamara had four touchdowns against Tampa Bay last year as well. (one Rushing, two receiving, one kick return) Giving up nearly six yards a carry against New Orleans is simply just not going to cut it.
With much emphasis in the offseason placed on improving Tampa’s defensive line, we should see more resistance put up. Somebody to watch out for in stuffing the run may very well be #91 Beau Allen, who was brought over from Philadelphia in free agency. I believe Allen will be a major key in stopping the run this season.
Another thing the Bucs have going for them in stopping the rushing attack of the Saints is that the Saints’ co starting running back, Mark Ingram, is suspended and will not be playing Sunday.
Kamara will have to prove he can handle a heavier work load and with Kamara’s lighter frame, I just can’t see him carrying the rock 25+ times.
With Brent Grimes listed as doubtful, I expect it will be a combination of these two trying to slow down the pro bowl wide receiver. Thomas entered last year with questions over whether or not he could be a number one receiver in the NFL. Lets just say he answered those questions and left little doubt. In two games against the Bucs last year, Thomas had 14 catches for 159 yards.
Vernon Hargreaves is hoping for a bounce back season in 2018 after a lackluster injury filled 2017. Carlton Davis, who was drafted in the 2nd round of this years NFL Draft, looks primed for a big year after looking very good this preseason. This matchup appears to be pivotal and taking away a hall of fame quarterback’s number one target could help lead the Buccaneers to a week one victory.
Lets just hope Mike Smith lets them play press coverage.
Last, but not least, we have a matchup of two of the most elite players at their respected positions. This one should be exciting folks! Not only are we talking about to tremendous talents, we are also talking about bad blood between the two after last years altercation near the Bucs sideline.
Lattimore got the better of the matchup last year, after coming off a very impressive rookie season. Do not expect a sophomore slump from Lattimore. Mike Evans looks to improve off a solid, but somewhat down, 2017.
I fully expect this to be a very back and forth matchup, assuming the zebras let them play. I give the edge to Evans.