When they first met this season in Week Two, the Saints edged the Bucs in Tampa Bay on Garrett Hartley's 27 yard game-winner. It would be the second of five straight wins for the Saints, the second of eight straight losses for the Bucs.
With those contrasting starts, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the final regular season game would have far greater meaning for the Saints than the Bucs. And it does. Win and in the playoffs for the Saints, though the backdoor would still remain open with a loss should Arizona lose to the 49ers.
It could be out the door for second year coach Greg Schiano --- win or lose.
His Bucs have been plagued by mistakes, by the most penalties in the league, and by an offense that is the league's worst. Injuries have deprived it of its best running back, a starting wide receiver, and three tight ends.
The fiasco at quarterback that saw Josh Freeman released appeared to be solved with the elevation of rookie third round draft choice Mike Glennon. But after becoming the league's offensive rookie of the month of November, he and his emasculated offense have been suffocated for the most part in December. Tampa Bay is averaging 207 yards of offense over the last 5 weeks.
But the defense remains a punishing and talented one with pro bowl candidates at each level....defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, weakside linebacker LaVonte David, and cornerback Darrelle Revis.
The Bucs have won just a single game on the road all season. The Saints haven't lost a single game at home.