Bucs-Saints: A game where both teams could boost their draft position by losing _lowres

Associated Press photo by Mike McCarn -- Tampa Bay rookie receiver Mike Evans makes a touchdown catch against Carolina earlier this month. Evans leads the Bucs in receiving yards (997) and touchdown catches (11).


When: Noon Sunday

Where: Raymond James Stadium; Tampa, Florida

TV: Fox

Radio: WWL-AM, 870 in New Orleans; KMDL-FM, 97.3 in Lafayette; WDGL-FM, 98.1 in Baton Rouge

Records: Already the owners of a top-two 2015 draft selection, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-13 and are in line to secure the No. 1 pick if they lose to the New Orleans Saints in Sunday’s regular-season finale. The Saints are 6-9 and will register their fewest wins since coach Sean Payton arrived in 2006 with a defeat; however, if the team loses, New Orleans could choose as high as No. 8 in next year’s draft.

Last week: The Bucs lost the 10th game out of their Past 11 by a score of 20-3 against Green Bay, dropping their home record to 0-7. The Saints can relate somewhat to the struggles at home: In a contest that eliminated them from the playoffs, they lost 30-14 to Atlanta in a game where they turned the ball over four times. It was their fifth-straight loss at what’s now called the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the first time since 1980, when the Saints went 1-15.

Coaches: Bucs, Lovie Smith, first season (2-13); Saints, Sean Payton, eighth season (79-48)


(League rank in parentheses)


Total yards: Saints, 416.3 (1st); Bucs, 292.8 (31st)

Passing: Saints, 299.7 (3rd); Bucs, 213.3 (22nd)

Rushing: Saints, 116.5 (12th); Bucs, 79.5 (31st)

Points: Saints, 25.2 (T-9th); Bucs, 17.1 (28th)


Total yards: Saints, 390.9 (31st); Bucs, 371 (26th)

Passing: Saints, 261.5 (29th); Bucs, 254.4 (26th)

Rushing: Saints, 129.5 (29th); Bucs, 116.6 (20th)

Points: Saints, 26.9 (29th); Bucs, 25.8 (26th)


Buccaneers: Quarterback Josh McCown, running back Bobby Rainey, wide receiver Mike Evans, wide receiver Vincent Jackson, linebacker Lavonte David, defensive end Jacquies Smith, cornerback Jonathan Banks

Saints: Quarterback Drew Brees, running back Mark Ingram, wide receiver Kenny Stills, linebacker Curtis Lofton, outside linebacker Junior Galette, safety Kenny Vaccaro, punter Thomas Morstead, punt retuner/kick returner Jalen Saunders


Offense: Bucs receiver Mike Evans is one of the league’s best rookies, and he leads his team in receiving yards (997) and touchdown catches (11). The Saints defense will need to scheme to limit him after not having faced him in New Orleans’ win at home over Tampa Bay on Oct. 5, when a groin injury sidelined Evans.

About to face the NFL’s second-worst defense, the Bucs’ second-worst offense hasn’t had much success scoring on the ground: quarterback Josh McCown leads the team in rushing touchdowns with three.

Defense: Tampa Bay’s defense is statistically better than the Saints’ defense, but that’s not saying much. Perhaps the best thing about the Bucs defensively is that they’ve returned three interceptions for touchdowns this season: twice it was linebacker Danny Lansanah (one of his victims was Saints quarterback Drew Brees), and once it was cornerback Johnthan Banks, who leads Tampa Bay with four picks. One of Banks’ interceptions was against Brees.

Special teams: Perhaps no one on the Bucs’ special-teams units has shined as brightly as Russell Shepard, who scored 10 touchdowns in 49 career games at LSU from 2009-12 and was part of both a Southeastern Conference championship and a national title game appearance. He leads Tampa Bay in special-teams tackles with 13, so don’t be surprised to hear his name in that phase of the game Sunday.

Otherwise, with four missed field goals and a blocked punt to its name, this unit hasn’t accomplished much to help Tampa Bay.


-- Debate rages about whether either the Saints or Bucs should even try to win the game, given that a defeat for either team would help them attain the highest possible pick in the first round of the draft. For the record, the coaches of both teams have said their game-related decisions this week will be based on what gives their clubs the best chance to win, without consideration to the draft.

-- In a game that won’t affect playoff standings, Saints coach Sean Payton will be seeking his 80th career regular-season win. A win would put him 14 regular-season victories away from breaking the franchise record of 93 set by Jim Mora from 1986 to 1996.