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Saints at Buccaneers: Five things to watch

Teams will play at noon Sunday at Raymond James Stadium

  1. Neither team is playoff-bound, so the game doesn't have much to offer in terms of incentive from that standpoint. But the New Orleans Saints (6-9) have vowed to treat the season finale as they would a game that had playoff implications and have said they want to finish the season on a positive note. So New Orleans might be prepared to play loose and aggressive, especially defensively. We may see a blitz-heavy package against the Buccaneers. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay actually would benefit from not winning the game, as it is in position to land the No. 1 overall draft pick. True, the Bucs (2-13) also say they intend to play to win. But if packing it in benefits either team, it'll benefit the Bucs more than the Saints.

2. Drew Breesis 329 yards short of a 5,000-yard passing season. He already has an NFL-record four such seasons and while Brees and his teammates would rather have victories than numbers, they might as well try to add to his Hall of Fame resume since there's no possibility of adding to the franchise's postseason success. It would be Brees' fourth consecutive 5,000-yard season (he has nine straight 4,000-yard seasons) and the Buccaneers, who allow 254.4 passing yards per game, appear to offer the kind of defense that may allow him to do it.

  1. Staying on the numbers theme, Mark Ingramhas a chance to post the first 1,000-yard rushing season of his career, and the first for the Saints since Deuce McAllisterran for 1,057 yards in 2006. Ingram has 907 yards and eight touchdowns on 212 carries, all career highs, despite missing three games after breaking his hand and being limited to just 10 carries in his first game back following the injury. The Bucs allow 116.6 rushing yards per game so if the defense is in an especially giving mood, Brees and Ingram could reach their marks.
  1. It has been a disappointing season defensively for the Saints, who have allowed 390.9 yards per game, second-most in the league and 85 more yards per game than they allowed last season. New Orleans hasn't produced the stops, sacks or turnovers it hoped to produce this year, which led to spate of late-season personnel changes. Don't be surprised to see defensive coordinator Rob Ryansend everything at Bucs quarterback Josh McCown. The Saints have a bitter taste in their mouth defensively; a good performance to end the season won't totally wipe it away, but it'll at least send them into the offseason on a positive.
  1. Even in a finale that has no postseason implications, it can't be overlooked that if the Saints want to win the game, they need to win the turnover margin, or at least be even in the category. In games where New Orleans has been plus or even in turnover margin this season, it is 5-2. It's a statistic that Coach Sean Paytonalways emphasizes, and with good reason. A clean game always means a better chance of winning.

Photos of the Saints 2014 final 53-man roster. New Orleans Saints photos.

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