| | Tampa Bay at New Orleans Sunday NFL
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints 1:00 PM ET
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3.5 –117 (2 Units)
Tampa Bay needs something good to happen and they might have found a solution. The Bucs are going with Chris Simms at quarterback on Sunday. Though it's a little bit of a surprise the Bucs made this move, something was needed because they are averaging only 12.3 points and 81 rushing yards a game. The Bucs were successful moving the ball in Sunday's 16-13 loss to the Denver Broncos however the offense struggled once again to get the ball in the end zone. Simms played very well in the preseason going 42-61 (68.9) for 432 yards and just one interception. He gives the Bucs a stronger arm and more mobility and in his NFL debut, he completed 21-32 passes for 175 yards. New Orleans continues to fight amongst themselves while they just added another cancer in CB Mike McKenzie.
The Saints have had major problems stopping the run, so figure head coach Jon Gruden to use Michael Pittman more as a running back to test that problem. The Bucs got a boost last week when Pittman returned from his three-game suspension and rushed for 72 yards on 15 carries. Pittman is powerful runner who can help wear down a Saints front seven that has a tendency to get tired versus offenses that run right at it. Tampa Bay could have decent success running the ball and throwing it underneath. The Saints are allowing 159.5 yards a game on the ground, deal last in the NFC and 31st overall, and a 4.8 yard per carry average, which is 12th worst in the NFC. The Saints' struggles this season have often been because of offensive miscues and a defense that wears down quickly versus the run when the opponent gets extra opportunities. Simms still has a lot to prove. But it's hard to imagine him doing much worse than the Bucs have inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Tampa Bay is 1-for-7 inside the red zone, the worst touchdown ratio in the league. Simms' mobility may give Gruden more plays in terms of rollouts or bootlegs near the goal line, providing a run-pass option. The defense still is among the NFL's best, ranked sixth overall and having allowed just one offensive touchdown in three of four games. The Bucs' defense has been at its best versus the pass so far this season. The Bucs' pass rush isn't nearly as explosive as it once was, but RDE Simeon Rice will present some problems for LOT Wayne Gandy in terms of speed off the edge. If the Bucs can use their mismatches to get pressure on QB Aaron Brooks without having to blitz too often it will give them a great advantage in this matchup. As far as rushing, the unit has given up an average of 127 yards per game, but that statistic doesn't accurately represent the play of this unit, as teams are running the ball a lot more with leads they have established in the four games that the Bucs have lost. The Bucs played with a lot more discipline last week and were able to hold Denver RB Quentin Griffin to just 66 yards on 21 carries. Without premier RB Deuce McAllister in the lineup again this week, however, the Saints lack the offensive balance to put any team away. RB Aaron Stecker simply lacks the burst, speed and power to exploit those holes as consistently as McAllister could. And then there is Brooks who is complaining yet again. Pretty soon the players are going to quit on their quarterback. After their debacle last weekend in Arizona, Brooks lashed out. "I have to sit back and re-evaluate my situation here in New Orleans," he said. "I am going to keep fighting until the change comes." A team doesn’t need a leader like that as the passing game is already a concern. Injuries to receivers Joe Horn, Jerome Pathon and Talman Gardner have led to increasing disappointment in rookie Devery Henderson. Henderson, who held out for nine days of training camp, has never caught up to his teammates, and head coach Jim Haslett doesn’t believe Henderson can be trusted at this point. There are internal problems with the Saints that go beyond Brooks. Mike McKenzie's replacement at left cornerback in Green Bay, Michael Hawthorne, and nose tackle Grady Jackson, both left what they considered a bad situation in New Orleans last year for a second shot in Green Bay. Jackson found it ironic that McKenzie went to the Saints for similar reasons. "The only thing I can say is the grass ain't always greener," Jackson said. "Best of luck to him. The grass might look green, but it's not." While it may look like Tampa has given up this season with all of the playing time the younger guys are getting, they haven’t given up yet nor will they give up on Gruden. "We have been unable to take one home. It's a problem right now. We have to break through ... and hopefully this is the week. It is a concern, but I think this team knows how to win. We have a lot of winners. We just have to find a way to win," Gruden said. "I don't think the film lies. These guys are playing hard. They are exhausted walking out of the stadium, and they care. That's the greatest compliment I can give them."