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  1. Bucs

New Orleans Saints practice dome domination

TAMPA — By now, you've probably heard plenty about the Saints' ridiculous dominance at the Superdome in recent years. Take away coach Sean Payton's suspension during the 2012 season and they haven't lost at home since the Bucs got them in the 2010 season finale. Even with the Payton-less season, the Saints are 21-4 at home since the start of 2011 — only the Patriots, at 22-3, can beat that home record — and what stands out about New Orleans' home prowess is how much it contrasts to their performance on the road. The Saints have dropped six straight road games and eight of their past nine, including an 0-3 mark this season.

If you look at point differential, the Saints were 22.7 points per game better at home than on the road last season: The average home score was 34-15 in their favor, the average road score 23-18 against them. The next-closest home/away disparity in the NFL was nearly a touchdown less dramatic — Cincinnati was 15.8 points per game better at home in net scoring.

The Bucs, by comparison, were only 8.6 points better at home than on the road. Tampa Bay knows all too well about how well the Saints play at home, having lost 41-0 there in 2012 and 42-17 last season.

A big part of that, of course, is Drew Brees running a prolific offense with precision, his speedy targets enjoying the turf indoors. Brees has 39 percent more passing touchdowns in home games than on the road, with 12 percent fewer interceptions.

Those splits aren't always the case. The Patriots' Tom Brady, another dominant passer at home, actually has 19 fewer passing touchdowns in his career in home games, but he makes up for that by limiting his mistakes remarkably well at home — he's 70 percent more likely to throw an interception on the road over his career.

The secret, then, is to face the Saints and Brees on your turf, which Lovie Smith was smart enough to do after the 2006 season, when his Bears played host to New Orleans in the NFC Championship and won 39-14, advancing to the Super Bowl.

That's not an option this time, however.

Total makeover

It hasn't even been three years since the Bucs last beat the Saints — Oct. 16, 2011, in Tampa — but for the current Tampa Bay roster, there has been nearly wholesale change to the roster in that time.

If linebacker Mason Foster, recovering from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him the last two weeks, can't play, that will mean none of the 22 Bucs starters on offense and defense from that 2011 game will play in this week's contest. As it stands, only four of the 53 current Bucs played in that game — Foster, punter Michael Koenen, defensive end Da'Quan Bowers and tackle Demar Dotson. By comparison, the Saints have 13 current players remaining that played in that game.

Dotson, who has been with the Bucs since 2009, longer than any other player, remembers the win, even though it came before his first NFL start. He was on the field as a tight end in victory formation for the game's final two plays, as Josh Freeman took a knee to run out a 26-20 win. A few other current Bucs were around that day — defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was injured then and defensive end Adrian Clayborn is injured now.

That five-game losing streak to New Orleans matches the second-longest for the Bucs against any opponent. Dallas has also won five straight against the Bucs. Only the Jets, who have won eight straight against Tampa Bay, have a longer current streak.

Families on opposite sides

The Bucs' trip to New Orleans is loaded with family reunions, but two of them won't be as involved due to recent injuries.

Bucs QB Josh McCown is unlikely to play due to a thumb injury as he faces younger brother Luke, the Saints' backup QB. And Gill Byrd, the Bucs' cornerback coach, won't be able to watch his son Jairus, a Pro Bowl safety with the Saints, who was lost for the season to a season-ending knee injury in Thursday's practice.

"I'm a Jairus Byrd fan 16 games a year. I want him to play the best game of his career every game, including when he plays the team I'm coaching," his father said. "I'm a Saints fan for 14 games a year. But I'm a Bucs coach 16 games a year and I want to win every game. It's not hard for me. It's not hard for Jairus. We're both competitive."

There is one family tie that will play out on the field, as identical twins Brandon and Brian Dixon, both rookie cornerbacks from Northwest Missouri State, should face each other on kick coverage. Brandon signed with the Bucs after being cut by the Jets, while Brian made the Saints' roster as an undrafted rookie.

Only once has Luke McCown played against his brother's team — as a Bucs backup in 2008, he took the final snap in victory formation for a 1-yard loss to clinch a 27-3 win against the Carolina Panthers when Josh was a backup.

BUCS BY THE NUMBERS

1,090

Identical passing yards allowed this season by Bucs and Saints, tied for 28th in NFL in pass defense

0 Interceptions by Saints in 2014, joining Jets as only teams without one

5 Sacks by Saints in 1-3 start; only five NFL teams have fewer

31 NFL rank for Bucs in punting (42.9 yards) and net punting (34.4 yards) average

64 Passing yards Drew Brees needs to reach 40,000 with Saints in 132 games, fastest ever with one team

THE POLL

If you had one game ball to give out from the Bucs' victory in Pittsburgh, who would it go to?

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

I'm giving the Saints one more chance. I know the Bucs pulled off an improbable comeback at Pittsburgh. I also know the Saints haven't looked like the team I envisioned and lauded. … But still, the Saints are better than the Bucs and this game is in the Superdome. If the Saints were playing on the road, though, I would take Tampa Bay.

Larry Holder

New Orleans Times-Picayune

The Buccaneers are simply a better team with Mike Glennon at the helm. Glennon mounted a winning touchdown drive with several key throws including a winning touchdown pass to his No. 1 target Vincent Jackson. Returning from injury, both Gerald McCoy and Michael Johnson made a huge impact and combined to make several key defensive plays.

Dan Schneier

Fox Sports

THE PICKS

The Bucs have some confidence after their first victory at Pittsburgh and the Saints are not playing particularly well. But this just feels like a game when Saints quarterback Drew Brees starts to figure out things. Saints, 31-23.

Tom Jones

Times Sports Columnist

In the end, New Orleans just has too much firepower. Saints, 27-17

Gary Shelton

Times Sports Columnist

Three questions

With Demar Dotson

For all the talk about Bucs playing basketball, you were a Dunkaneer here before anybody in this locker room, playing at Southern Miss. Who has the best basketball game on this team?

"You asked me a hard question. I haven't seen any of these guys play. I have seen Josh (McCown) play though. If I had to guess, I'd probably have to go with Josh. Mike (Evans) or Vince (Jackson), I haven't seen them play."

You've lasted longer with this team than anyone else, since 2009.

"It's a blessing at the end of the day. I've come a long way in a short time, but I have a long way to go. It proves how blessed I am, that God gave me this opportunity to come out here and play."

Guilty-pleasure TV show?

"I love to watch Sanford & Son. I have the whole series, all six seasons. I've seen every last show, but I still watch it over and over and over. I watch it every night before I go to bed. It puts me to sleep. I've been doing that for years. I love that show."

Greg Auman, Times staff writer

PROJECTED STARTERS

BUCS

OFFENSE

WR Vincent Jackson 83

LT Anthony Collins 73

LG Logan Mankins 70

CEvan Dietrich-Smith62

RG Patrick Omameh 66

RT Demar Dotson 69

TE A. Seferian-Jenkins 87

WR Louis Murphy 18

QB Mike Glennon 8

RB Doug Martin 22

FB Jorvorskie Lane 46

DEFENSE

LDE Will Gholston 92

DT Gerald McCoy 93

DT Clinton McDonald 98

RDE Michael Johnson 90

LB Dane Fletcher 50

LB Lavonte David 54

CB Leonard Johnson 29

CB Alterraun Verner 21

CB Johnthan Banks 27

SS Mark Barron 23

FS Major Wright 31

SPECIAL TEAMS

P/KO Michael Koenen 9

PK Patrick Murray 7

LS Andrew DePaola 48

KR/PR Solomon Patton 86

SAINTS

OFFENSE

WR Marques Colston 12

LT Terron Armstead 68

LG Ben Grubbs 66

C Jonathan Goodwin 55

RG Jahri Evans 73

RT Zach Streif 64

TE Jimmy Graham 80

WR Kenny Stills 84

QB Drew Brees 9

RB Khiry Robinson 29

FB Austin Johnson 35

DEFENSE

LDE Akiem Hicks 76

NT Brodrick Bunkley 77

RDE Cameron Jordan 94

OLB Junior Galette 93

ILB David Hawthorne 57

ILB Curtis Lofton 50

OLB Parys Haralson 98

LCB Keenan Lewis 28

RCB Corey White 24

SS Kenny Vaccaro 32

FS Rafael Bush 25

SPECIAL TEAMS

P/KO Thomas Morstead 6

PK Shayne Graham 3

LS Justin Drescher 47

PR Brandin Cooks 10

KR Travaris Cadet 39

Injury report

BUCS — Out: DE Larry English (hamstring), WR Mike Evans (groin), S Dashon Goldson (ankle). Questionable: S Mark Barron (abdomen), LB Mason Foster (shoulder), DE Michael Johnson (ankle), QB Josh McCown (right thumb), DT Gerald McCoy (hand), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle). Probable: CB Johnthan Banks (not injury related).

SAINTS — Out: S Jairus Byrd (knee), RB Mark Ingram (hand), RB Erik Lorig (ankle). Probable: T Terron Armstead (concussion), S Marcus Ball (hamstring), C Jonathan Goodwin (neck), LB David Hawthorne (ankle), LB Curtis Lofton (shoulder), CB Patrick Robinson (thigh), TE Benjamin Watson (groin), CB Corey White (foot).

Poll results

Mike Glennon — 626 votes (76 percent)

Louis Murphy— 111 votes (13 percent)

Lavonte David — 46 votes (6 percent)

Michael Johnson— 21 votes (3 percent)

Vincent Jackson — 13 votes (1.5 percent)

Major Wright — 6 votes (0.5 percent)

Mike Evans — 1 vote (0 percent)

Total: 824 votes

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