Week 1 Sunday of the 2020 season features one of the most exciting matchups of the entire NFL slate, as Tom Brady makes his debut as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, facing Drew Brees and the Saints in the SuperDome on FOX.
To get ready for just the fifth matchup ever in these two future Hall of Famers’ illustrious careers, FOX Sports analyst Brandon Marshall broke down the three keys to watch for heading into the game.
1. Rookie RT Tristan Wirfs
The 21-year old Wirfs is the Bucs’ newest starting right tackle and the 13th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft out of Iowa. Tampa Bay traded up for the 6-foot-5, 320-pound rookie to filled the last hole on the offensive line to protect QB Tom Brady.
As Marshall points out, this one is fairly simple. While most NFL fans might not know Wirfs, the Bucs will only succeed if their first-round pick can keep Brady clean. Otherwise, if the 43-year-old QB is running for his life, Tampa Bay won’t stand a chance of keeping up in scoring with Brees & Co.
2. Tom Brady & Bruce Arians
Last season under Arians, the Buccaneers’ offense ranked third in both total yards per game (344) and points per game (28.6), but with QB Jameis Winston at the helm, turned the ball over a league-worst 41 times.
Meanwhile in 2019, 42-year-old Brady was still among the most accurate passers in the league. And his deep ball – compared to the league average – was 11.5% more accurate, according to PFF
That accuracy, combined with Arians’ offensive philosophy, could spell offensive fireworks for Tampa Bay starting in New Orleans.
But, there could be issues with that approach, too, Marshall argues.
3. Sean Payton vs. Todd Bowles
Since 2006, NOLA has had the same head coach (Sean Payton), offensive coordinator (Pete Carmichael) and QB (Drew Brees).
And since the start of that very same season, the Saints sit No. 1 among NFL teams in total yards (83,660, nearly 3,000 yards ahead of the second-ranked Patriots), passing yards (60,891, more than 5,000 yards ahead of the second-ranked Patriots) and yards per play (6.04).
Only the Patriots (6,111) have scored more points than New Orleans (5,801).
Yet Bowles, Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator, has quite a reputation of his own.
On the defensive side, coach Bowles knows exactly what he’s getting. He’s going to put his guys in position to make adjustments on the field.”
Under Bowles in 2019, the Bucs defense improved drastically in the second half of the season. In Weeks 1 through 8, Tampa’s defense recorded 33 passes defended (15th in the league). They finished the year with 96 (1st in the league).
They went from 30th in passing yards allowed from Weeks 1 through 9, to 20th in Weeks 10 through 17. In that same time span, they recorded 7 of their 12 season total interceptions.
A few more interesting facts:
The Saints are 3.5-point favorites as of Saturday evening.
New Orleans leads the all-time series 21-35.
The Saints have beaten the Buccaneers in each of their last 3 meetings and in 5 of their last 7.
Tampa Bay is 8-11 in Week 1 games since 2000, including a 2-4 stretch in their last 6, while New Orleans is 9-11 in their last 20 Week 1 games.
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