WHEN: Noon Sunday
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
RADIO: WWL-AM, 870; WWl-FM, 105.3 in New Orleans; KMDL-FM, 97.3 in Lafayette; WDGL-FM, 98.1 in Baton Rouge
RECORDS: Tampa Bay 0-1; New Orleans 0-1
COACHES: Buccaneers, Lovie Smith, second season (2-15); Saints, Sean Payton, ninth season (80-49)
LAST WEEK: No NFL team had a worse start than the Buccaneers. Facing off against Tennessee and rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, Tampa Bay allowed 35 points in the first half, seven courtesy of No. 1 pick Jameis Winston, who opened his career by throwing a pick-six on his first NFL pass.
OFFENSE: Winston, the No. 1 pick and widely touted as the most pro-ready quarterback in the NFL draft, looked anything but ready against Tennessee. Facing a Titans defense that struggled in 2014, Winston finished 16-of-33 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, and the performance could have been even worse: Winston also fumbled twice. Tampa Bay’s offensive line remains suspect; the Buccaneers gave up four sacks and averaged only 3.5 yards per carry in the running game. As bad as Tampa Bay was Sunday, though, the Bucs still have enough weapons to be dangerous if Winston finds his footing. Doug Martin bounced back with 52 yards on 11 carries, a 4.7 average, and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins made good on lots of predictions with two touchdowns in the season opener. Throw in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, the Bucs’ Twin Towers at wide receiver, and the Bucs’ skill players remain formidable. Evans, though, bears watching. The second-year standout has battled a hamstring injury that kept him out of the season opener.
DEFENSE: The good news for the Bucs? The defense gave up 309 yards of total offense against the Titans, good for 12th in the NFL during Week One. The problem with that statistic? Tampa Bay allowed Tennessee to average 6.2 yards per play, 24th in the league, and that’s against a team that pulled its starting quarterback heading into the fourth quarter.
Mariota had little trouble working the middle of the field against Tampa Bay. The Buccaners do have some players who can produce pressure. Gerald McCoy and Jacquies Smith had sacks against Tennessee, but the secondary recorded just two passes defended and struggled to tackle on short throws.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The kicking game represents the lone area the Bucs have some momentum heading into this week’s matchup against the Saints. Bobby Rainey, who backs up Doug Martin at running back, serves as an effective and dangerous return man, averaging 27.7 yards per kick and 8.5 yards per punt last week against the Titans. Punter Jake Schum also averaged 47.0 yards per punt in the opener. Kicker, though, still remains something of a mystery. Undrafted free agent Kyle Brindza still hasn’t attempted a field goal in an NFL game.