Let's be honest: This year's NFC South is not the competitive division it has been in recent years.
And let's be even more honest: Bucs v. Saints is the worst possible match-up in the lopsided division. The Saints are 9-0. The Bucs are 1-8. And these records aren't flukes -- the Saints really are that good, and the Bucs really are that bad.
However, FOX affiliates throughout Louisiana and central Florida can breathe a sigh of relief, because this game has the potential to be something other than a complete and utter blowout. Here's why:
NO has lots of injuries. Both of the Saints' starting corners, Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter, are likely out for this game. DT Sedrick Ellis, too. Star safety Darren Sharper is back after missing last week's game, but still nursing a sore knee. And on offense, RB Reggie Bush and WR Lance Moore are both banged up.
Antonio Bryant should be back. Not only will Tampa be playing an injury-ravaged NO secondary, but new starting QB Josh Freeman might actually have a competent wide receiver to throw to. No offense to Michael "Not Clooney" Clayton, Maurice Stovall, Sammie Stroughter, or Brian Clark (or, ok, a little offense to all but Stroughter), but tight end Kellen Winslow has been the only real target this season. Having two guys on the field at once who can catch and hold the ball might do wonders for the offense.
NO plays down to their opponents. Last week, the Saints almost lost to the St. Louis Rams. They probably should have lost to the Carolina Panthers the week before. The Bucs are arguably the worst of all three, so here's hoping the Saints play accordingly.
TB is playing at home. Crowd noise is on the Bucs' side, and the Bucs D can certainly use the "12th man" to help cut down on Drew Brees's big-play ability. Plus, Raymond James Stadium has those cannons that fire every time the Bucs enter the Red Zone, which could startle the Saints' defenders into confusion.
Josh Freeman is good at the 4th quarter comeback. Which, frankly, he will need to be, given that the Saints have Brees, a passel of talented receivers, and Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell to run the ball. Not to mention the fact that the Bucs' defense lacks proficiency in rushing the passer (well, except Aaron Rodgers), consistently protecting against the deep ball, and stopping the run.
Bucs have no expectations. The Saints are currently undefeated, and everyone is looking to bring them their first loss. Teams sit their starters against the Bucs.
NO plays New England next week. Maybe they get so caught up in game-planning for the Patriots that they forget to fly to Tampa?
Cross-published at chicksinthehuddle.com.