NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Saints head into Sunday's game in Tampa with a 5 percent chance of making the playoffs. That should tell us all we need to know about how desperate they are for a win. If that will be reflected in their play is anyone's guess.
They were similarly motivated a week ago and responded with their most lethargic effort of the season in a loss to the Lions.
The Bucs in Tampa have often produced some of the Saints' best efforts. But this is a red-hot Buc team that's won four straight, including back-to-back quality wins over Kansas City and Seattle.
The key to their recent success, which has them tied for the lead in the NFC South with Atlanta and two games ahead of the Saints has been ball security. In a 1 and 3 start they were -9 in turnover differential. They've been plus-12 since.
With a banged-up receiving corps, they're expected to continue a recent heavy commitment to the run. When Jameis Winston goes to the air, he'll be looking at Mike Evans often, if not solely.
Evans, whom the Saints have limited to one touchdown in three career games against them, has been targeted more than any receiver in the NFL. He's third in the league in receptions, second in yards and touchdowns. Eighty-four percent of his catches produce first downs - best in the league. He likes to get physical with defensive backs and can get frustrated when he's not allowed to.
The Bucs have shown as recently as last week that they can win without a big game from Evans. The saints haven't shown they can without a nearly-spotless performance from Drew Brees.