When the Saints face the new Tom Brady led Buccaneers this Sunday, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will have no fans in attendance due to COVID-19 restrictions. Artificial crowd noise will replace the uproarious Who Dat Nation, but that does not take away the importance of the matchup.
The revamped Buccaneers feature talent on both sides of the football. Offensively, the acquisition of six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and four-time First-Team All Pro selectee Rob Gronkowski looks to provide Tampa Bay with efficiency. While Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans is doubtful for the game, Chris Godwin, a Pro Bowl wide receiver himself, is set to improve on a spectacular 2019 season. In two games against the Saints last year, Godwin combined for 172 yards and 3 touchdowns. Defensively, the linebacker trio of 2019 NFL sack leader Shaquil Barrett, former Pro Bowler Lavonte David, and Devin White project to be one of the best in the league.
The Saints enter the 2020 season with high expectations yet again. Wide receiver Michael Thomas aims to improve on a record breaking 2019 where he led the league in yards while breaking the single season reception record. Drew Brees, 13-time Pro Bowler, enters the season looking for his second Super Bowl victory. The Saints added veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders to solidify Brees’s weaponry. Pro Football Focus has ranked New Orleans’ offensive line number two in its preseason rankings. New Orleans drafted center Cesar Ruiz with their first round selection though he is listed as inactive for Sunday. With Sean Payton still as head coach, the Saints offense could be as potent as ever. When Payton took over in 2006, the Saints have never finished a season outside of top 12 in scoring.
On defense, the Saints were top 15 in both yards and points allowed last season. They added three-time Pro Bowl defensive back and former Saint Malcom Jenkins. Two-time Pro Bowler and 2017 defensive rookie of the year Marshon Lattimore remains on his rookie contract. Linebacker Demario Davis looks to repeat a year in which he was an First-Team All Pro selectee. Veteran defensive end and five-time Pro Bowl selectee Cameron Jordan returns as well for his
New Orleans’ has struggled in season openers recently. Since the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009, they are 3-7 in opening season games. The Saints have also achieved more victories on the road than at home the last two years, going 14-2 away and 12-4 home. The Buccaneers even beat the Saints in their home opener in 2018 with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback.
Though this one game does not dictate the Saints’ season, it will determine whether they will be playing catch up or not the rest of the way.