NFC South: 2013 Week 17 TB at NO

Rapid Reaction: New Orleans Saints

December, 29, 2013

NEW ORLEANS -- A few thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' 42-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which moved them to 11-5 on the season and clinched their spot as a wild-card team in the playoffs.

What it means: Who knows what this means? Obviously it was a good sign that the Saints still know where the “on” switch is inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Their offense was as dominant as ever, with 468 total yards and four touchdown passes by Drew Brees. That has to be a nice confidence boost heading into the playoffs after a nasty two-game losing streak in Weeks 15 and 16.

But we still don't have any idea if the Saints can figure out how to take this show on the road, where they've struggled all season. The disparity between the Saints' home and road performances this year has been stunning. And now they'll have to be a road team throughout the entire playoffs -- with plenty of potential nasty-weather sites on the horizon.

Brees gains, loses records: Brees was sensational Sunday, throwing for 381 yards and four touchdowns (all four of them in the first half). He also ran one in for a TD during the second half. In the process, he passed the 5,000-yard mark for the fourth time in his career -- something no other NFL quarterback has done more than once. Brees finished the regular season with 5,162 yards, 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in one of the best seasons of his 13-year career.

However, his most historic achievement fell on Sunday when Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning broke Brees' record for passing yards in a season. Brees threw for 5,476 yards in 2011 while Manning threw for 5,477 this year.

Stock watch: Saints rookie left tackle Terron Armstead obviously held up much better in his second career start. He did give up one half-sack early in the game when the pocket collapsed up the middle and around his side on a third-and-long. But for the most part, he helped allow Brees to get comfortable in the pocket for his huge day -- which included several deep throws that took time to develop. I'll take a closer look at Armstead's performance in this week's film study. ...

Meanwhile, the Saints' secondary broke down on one big TD pass when safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Corey White both appeared to bite on the play fake. It's hard to say that they missed safety Kenny Vaccaro because of that one play. Overall, the defense was pretty solid, especially after New Orleans took a big lead.

Up next: The Saints will play at the winner of tonight's Philadelphia-Dallas game, finishing as the No. 6 seed.

It's hard to ignore the Saints' road performances this year -- and adverse weather conditions could certainly hurt their passing game. But it's also hard to imagine they can't turn things around with an offense that is obviously so potent at times.

Rapid Reaction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

December, 29, 2013

NEW ORLEANS -- A few thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers42-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

What it means: A long and painful season is over. The Bucs had to endure the Josh Freeman saga, an outbreak of MRSA and an 0-8 start. They never really recovered from any of that. The offense got worse, not better, as the season went on, and rookie quarterback Mike Glennon took plenty of lumps. The defense had a few bright spots but not enough. Now, the Bucs appear headed for more drama in the postseason. There have been speculative reports that coach Greg Schiano could be jumping ship for Penn State. Even if that doesn’t happen, there’s no guarantee the Bucs will keep Schiano after a 4-12 season.

Stock watch: After failing to get positive results in recent weeks, Glennon bounced back a bit. He had some success throwing the deep ball against a good New Orleans defense.

Trickery backfired: A lot of fans have talked about how the Bucs were too conservative all season. Well, they took a chance and attempted a fake field goal at the end of the first half. The play had Michael Koenen attempting to throw a pass, and it totally failed.

What’s next: We’ll find out soon enough if there are any changes to the coaching staff or the front office. Either way, this team has a lot of work to do in the offseason if it’s going to turn things around and make the playoffs next season. But the one bright spot is that the Bucs will hold a top-10 pick in the 2014 draft. They also will have about $17 million in salary-cap room to work with.