By Max Luckan
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have now dropped three straight games, and will look to get back to winning against the New Orleans Saints this Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Louisiana. The Bucs currently sit at 6-7, and their playoff hopes are thinning rapidly. While the possibility of clinching a postseason berth is still vaguely possible, all the pieces of that puzzle would have to fall perfectly into place. Meanwhile, the Saints are coming off a disappointing loss to the New York Giants, a game in which they allowed a staggering 52 points. Of course, the game against the Bucs will be a divisional one, so if the first matchup between the two is any indication, it should certainly be a high-scoring affair.
Right guard Jamon Meredith missed practice Wednesday with an ankle injury, according to head coach Greg Schiano. The severity of the injury and his status for Sunday's game are uncertain. "Don't know yet," Schiano said. "We'll have to wait and see." Meredith had been dealing with an ankle injury a few weeks ago, and appeared to have tweaked it in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
On Tuesday, the Bucs re-signed cornerback Brandon McDonald, who has played eight games for the team this season. Obviously, the lack of depth in the secondary is still a major issue, especially because CB Myron Lewis was recently placed on injured reserve. The Bucs still have the worst pass defense in the NFL, and will face Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who is an excellent passer. E.J. Biggers and Leonard Johnson are expected to start at corner for the Bucs, but Schiano liked the way McDonald played against Brees the first time around, so he should see plenty of action.
Furthermore, the Bucs will do whatever they can to limit Brees this weekend. Of course, Schiano wouldn't get into specifics, but he did say they will try some different things. "We're going to certainly try some things, because I was very impressed," Schiano said.
The Bucs weren't too successful stopping Brees in the first game between the two teams, as Brees was able to throw for 377 yards and four touchdowns. While most of the focus will be on Brees, the Bucs can't forget about the Saints' running game, which features Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, and Pierre Thomas. The Bucs are the best in the league at stopping the run, but the threat of the Saints' passing game won't allow them to forget about the rushing attack.
Quarterback Josh Freeman has struggled with accuracy in recent weeks and that could be attributed to an increased amount of pressure. Freeman has had to deal with elite pass rushers recently, and the result has been a dip in accuracy. Against the Saints, the Bucs will try to give Freeman more time in the pocket to make better throws, which will lead to bigger plays and more success in the run game.
And the Bucs will also have to prepare for the dome conditions, which are rather friendly. The turf is, of course, different than what the Bucs play on at home, so they may have to make minor special teams adjustments.
Overall, though, the Bucs are zeroed in on slowing down Drew Brees and his high-octane offense, which in turn, could lead to more points for the Bucs if they're able to control the time of possession.
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Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.
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