The Saints' season hangs on a knife edge and the team needs a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to secure a playoff spot. Everything rests on Drew Brees' shoulders when he returns to New Orleans to close out the regular season.
Meet the New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints were secure a few weeks ago. They held sole possession atop the NFC South, and had an opportunity to push the Seahawks for home field advantage. Now they look a lot more fallible following two losses in a row and three of their last four.
This team has been Jekyll and Hyde in 2013. They perform extremely well at home, but struggle away from their dome, where the team's offense is less potent and Brees performance suffers. The Saints are lucky they get to close out the 2013 regular season at home where they're near-unbeatable, but questions linger when they enter the playoffs.
Meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay struggled in 2013, on and off the field. An early-season locker room controversy resulted in the release of quarterback Josh Freeman, and it appeared head coach Greg Schiano was destined to lose his job. Then a mid-season surge occurred which changed the perception of the Buccaneers. The once-doomed Schiano may have even earned the opportunity to come back next year.
Much of the reason for the late push has been quarterback Mike Glennon. The third-round rookie has been the best player in the 2013 class and has a chance to be the team's long-term answer, provided he starts being more reliable and stops being gun-shy. A win over New Orleans at home would cement him as the team's starting quarterback, but that's a big task.
Local Takes: New Orleans Saints
Dave Cariello from Canal Street Chronicles was left to break down what wen wrong against the Panthers:
And then came this game, with maybe the biggest two-minute drill of the season so far. Once again, New Orleans couldn't protect a late lead and allowed a team to score with little time and no timeouts.
Local Takes: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are on the verge of retooling, and Sander Philipse of Bucs Nation is questioning whether a change at the top is needed:
A much more difficult question is whether Mark Dominik deserves to be fired. He's been a solid general manager overall, but there are plenty of question marks, too. His drafts have been uneven, but then the past two drafts look like fairly big successes. His free agency forays have not been overly successful, but some of that was due to unforeseeable injuries. The talent on this team is certainly good, but then the Bucs have had just one winning season under Dominik. He's had two chances to draft a quarterback and two different head coaches, and still hasn't succeeded. How many people get a third chance in the NFL? How many deserve to?
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Some part of me hopes the Jets fire Rex Ryan and the Bucs hire him. He would absolutely destroy opponents with Bucs' defensive personnel.— Sander Philipse (@Bucs_Nation) December 24, 2013
Nobody in SB Nation's panel has faith in the Buccaneers, with a Saints prediction sweeping across the board.
The Saints are favored by 12.5 points, according to OddsShark. Some outlets are offering up to 13 points.
The playoffs begin. Tampa Bay will need to wait until 2014, while the Saints hopes ride on a win.