Thursday, January 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs opponent preview: Saints, Week 16

When they play: Week 14 (Dec. 11) in Tampa, Week 16 (Dec. 24) in New Orleans

2015 record: 7-9

Last time vs. Bucs: The Bucs split two games with the Saints last year, winning 26-19 on the road in Week 2, then losing 24-17 in Tampa in Week 14.

2016 outlook: After a 4-8 start, New Orleans won three of its last four to keep the Bucs in last place, but Drew Brees wasn't enough to overcome a porous defense that gave up an NFL-worst 29.8 points per game. The offense could be better still, but it will need to be as the defense isn't likely to be substantially improved.

Player to watch: Brees opened his NFL career 6-6 against the Bucs, but he's 8-1 since then, with last year's Bucs win ending a seven-game win streak for him. He's already the all-time passing leader in touchdowns (44) and yards (5,934) against the Bucs, beating Brett Favre on both counts in two fewer games.

Rookie to watch: Second-round WR Michael Thomas is another tall receiver in the NFC South to test those 5-10 Bucs corners. Keyshawn Johnson's nephew is 6-foot-4 and had nine touchdowns last year at Ohio State. Adding him and TE Coby Fleener, Brees seems good for another 5,000-yard season.

Key matchup: Saints defense vs. NFL record books. In 2012, a bad Saints defense set the NFL record by allowing 7,042 yards of total offense, and last year's Saints set another dubious NFL mark by allowing 45 pass touchdowns, just under three a game.

Familiar face: Backup QB Luke McCown played for the Bucs in 2007-08 and has had an incredibly long career as a backup -- his last touchdown pass came ... in 2007 with the Bucs. None in eight seasons since.

Cool stat: The Saints were the best third-down offense in the NFL in 2015, converting 47.7 percent of their third downs into first downs. The Bucs third-down defense will be seriously tested this season, as the Bucs face seven of the top eight third-down offense from 2015, with a combined 10 games against them. The Bucs offense finished 10th on third downs last season.

Comments
DeSean Jackson says Jameis Winston needs to stop trying to “impress the world,” and play his game

DeSean Jackson says Jameis Winston needs to stop trying to “impress the world,” and play his game

Receiver DeSean Jackson stopped short of saying he regretted his decision to sign a three-year, $33.5-million contract as a free agent with the Bucs last March. But he certainly is disappointed in his lack of chemistry with quarterback Jameis Winston...
Published: 01/17/18
Bucs LB Kwon Alexander headed to Pro Bowl

Bucs LB Kwon Alexander headed to Pro Bowl

Kwon Alexander is headed to the Pro Bowl.The third-year Bucs linebacker, who led the NFL in solo tackles a year ago, was announced Tuesday as an injury replacement for Seattle's Bobby Wagner.Alexander, 23, won't have to go far, as the game is back in...
Published: 01/16/18

Shrine Game journal: Homecoming for Utah OL Salesi Uhatafe; Quinton Flowers works on snaps

ST. PETERSBURG — Salesi Uhatafe is back in his hometown, and though he moved to Texas when he was still a baby, it’s very much a homecoming as the former Utah offensive lineman plays in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field."I’ll probab...
Published: 01/15/18
Iowa State’s two-way star Joel Lanning practicing at linebacker for East-West Shrine Game

Iowa State’s two-way star Joel Lanning practicing at linebacker for East-West Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — Joel Lanning has the unique distinction of being listed as an "LB/QB" on the West roster for Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.And while the former Iowa State star spent the entire practice at middle linebacker Mond...
Published: 01/15/18
Bucs GM Jason Licht ‘cringed’ at expectations, optimistic about future

Bucs GM Jason Licht ‘cringed’ at expectations, optimistic about future

TAMPA — It was a brutal year. That’s how general manager Jason Licht views the Bucs’ 2017 season.Start with Hard Knocks and the surrounding expectations, some he embraced and others he "cringed at." They all went unfulfilled, mostly due to injuries, ...
Published: 01/15/18

NFL playoffs schedule

AFCCONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP• Jaguars at Patriots, 3 p.m. Sunday, CBSNFCCONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP•Vikings at Eagles, 6:40 p.m. Sunday, FoxSuper Bowl LIIJaguars or Patriots vs. Vikings or Eagles, 6:30 p.m. Feb. 4, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis TV: NBC...
Published: 01/15/18
Jason Licht addresses what went wrong for the Bucs in 2017 and how they plan to fix it

Jason Licht addresses what went wrong for the Bucs in 2017 and how they plan to fix it

It was a "brutal year." That's how general manager Jason Licht views the Bucs 2017 season.Expectations, many of them he said he "cringed at," nonetheless went unfulfilled due to injuries, particularly the right shoulder sprain suffered by quarterback...
Published: 01/15/18
Bucs search for a backup quarterback becomes paramount amid NFL’s probe into Winston

Bucs search for a backup quarterback becomes paramount amid NFL’s probe into Winston

With the NFL investigating allegations against Jameis Winston that potentially could result in a suspension, the Bucs will need to address the backup quarterback position again this off-season."That's another position I always want to do whatever we ...
Published: 01/15/18
Rick and Tom podcast: Who says you need a franchise QB in the playoffs?

Rick and Tom podcast: Who says you need a franchise QB in the playoffs?

The NFL’s final four teams are set, and the starting quarterbacks are Tom Brady, Blake Bortles, Case Keenum and Nick Foles. In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down this past weekend’s games, including the Vikings’ miraculous fin...
Published: 01/15/18
Vikings stun Saints with 61-yard touchdown on last play

Vikings stun Saints with 61-yard touchdown on last play

MINNEAPOLIS — This doesn’t happen, not in the NFL, not in the playoffs, not when what is on the line are such things as legacies and franchise curses and — oh, my. All of it.The Vikings were dead, just as they have always been in the playoffs. Their ...
Published: 01/14/18