JoeBucsfan.com keys to game

9:29 AM, Sep 14, 2013   |    comments
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Home Opener Is A Must Win For Bucs

After a devastating loss to the Jets, the Bucs return home Sunday to face the undefeated New Orleans Saints.

It feels like gloom and doom around One Buc Place after the 18-17, sloppy loss to the Jets, reports of players-only meetings, and Josh Freeman revealing yesterday that he "overslept" for the Bucs team picture. And then there's the buzz about Freeman's teammates questioning his commitment.

But the reality is if the Bucs beat the Saints, then Tampa Bay will own first place in the NFC South, and lead in all division tiebreakers.

Drew Brees and head coach/playcaller Sean Payton are arguably the toughest offensive tandem in the NFL, and that will put the Bucs defense to the test, while Freeman will have to snap the Bucs out of their offensive funk.

Here are keys to a Bucs victory:

Darrelle Revis: The Bucs' $1 million-per-game superstar cornerback said he's not yet 100 percent after returning from offseason knee surgery. The knee is great, Revis said, but his overall physical conditioning isn't there yet. Look for Revis to match up with Saints No. 1 wide receiver Marques Colston.

Pass rush: Blitzing Brees won't work like it did for the Bucs in New York last week, where the Bucs had five sacks. Brees is too good for that. He'll find the open receivers quickly. So the Bucs' defensive line needs to generate its own rush without help from linebackers. 

Last year, Brees wasn't pressured much and the Saints had four first-half touchdowns in Tampa.

Doug Martin: The Bucs had no running attack on opening day. There were no holes for Doug Martin. Starting fullback is expected to make his

2013 debut after a summer calf injury. His presence could make a difference. An effective Martin also helps keep Brees off the field.

Josh Freeman: The embattled signalcaller needs a good start, otherwise the boos will rain down on him at Raymond James Stadium, as they did late last season when Freeman struggled. Perhaps Freeman likes playing the Saints? He's had great success against them, including a 420-yard, three touchdown performance in Tampa last year.

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