The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be looking to bounce back from last week’s overtime loss when they host the New Orleans Saints in front of a national audience Monday night.
Here’s everything you need to know about this prime-time showdown between NFC South rivals:
The result of this game could have a huge impact on how the rest of the season goes for the Bucs.
Despite having a losing record at 5-6, Tampa Bay remains in first place in the NFC South for now, controlling their own destiny for another division title and a home playoff game.
If they beat the Saints, they’re back at .500 with another division win under their belt. If they lose, the Bucs fall to 5-7, and it opens the door for the Atlanta Falcons to take over the top spot.
There are much tougher opponents ahead for Tampa Bay, so if they want to make another postseason run, they can’t afford to drop this one.
Outside of the big-picture implications, this matchup gives Tampa Bay the opportunity to give the Saints a dose of their own medicine.
New Orleans has swept the Bucs in the regular season in each of the past three years, but after a 20-10 road win back in Week 2, a victory Monday night would give Tampa Bay their first regular-season sweep of the Saints since 2007.
There’s more on the line in this one than bragging rights, but after such a long stretch of regular-season struggles against one of their most bitter rivals, the Bucs would love to take those back with a big win here.
All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs (ankle) is the only Bucs player who has been officially ruled out for this matchup, but starting safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. (foot) and Mike Edwards (hamstring) are both listed as doubtful, as is No. 3 cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (quad).
Tampa Bay has six players listed as questionable, including starting defensive linemen Vita Vea (foot) and Akiem Hicks (foot), and running back Leonard Fournette (hip).
Four players are out for the Saints, and six are questionable, including cornerback Marshon Lattimore (abdomen).
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Bucs WR Mike Evans vs. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore
Every time these two face off, there are fireworks.
Back in Week 2, it ended with Evans getting a one-game suspension for knocking Lattimore off of his feet after a play, which started an on-field brawl between the two teams.
Lattimore has had some success keeping Evans in check over the years, but the future Hall of Fame wide receiver has still found the end zone against him multiple times in recent matchups.
Both players have been banged up this season, but you can bet that won’t stop them from bringing their best in this one.
Saints RB Alvin Kamara vs. Bucs LBs Lavonte David & Devin White
Kamara is still one of the NFL’s most versatile weapons out of the backfield, but the Bucs have one of the league’s best, most athletic linebacker tandems.
David and White have the range and instincts to keep Kamara in check, something they’ve done in the past, but they’ll have to keep playing with a high level of discipline to limit his big plays.
Kamara can impact the game on the ground and through the air, so every snap will challenge David and White on both a physical and mental level as they look to contain him once again.
Saints WR Chris Olave vs. Bucs CBs Jamel Dean & Carlton Davis III
The Saints gave up next year’s first-round pick to land Olave back in April, and even though that pick could end up being much higher than they were originally planning, Olave has been everything they could have hoped.
He’s been arguably the best rookie receiver in an extremely deep class, stretching the field and making big plays on a weekly basis.
He’ll test Tampa Bay’s talented corner tandem of Dean and Davis, both of whom have the size, length and physicality to frustrate the young pass-catcher at the line of scrimmage, disrupt the timing of his route-running, and make him work for contested catches.
On paper, the Bucs are clearly the more talented team, but that hasn’t stopped them from losing to inferior opponents like the Steelers, Panthers, and Browns so far this season.
Tampa Bay’s offense still can’t move the ball or score points consistently, which is leaving the defense on the field for too long, and tiring them out in crunch time.
The Bucs have looked like the much better team heading into this matchup in each of the last two years, but on both occasions, the Saints embarrassed them in front of their home fans in prime time.
Until the Bucs prove they can overcome the mental hurdle of playing the Saints at home on national TV, it's hard to pick them to win.
Saints 23, Bucs 20
This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Preview: Saints at Buccaneers on Monday Night Football