For many New Orleans Saints players, this weekend’s upcoming playoff game against NFC South foe Tampa Bay Buccaneers felt inevitable all season long. Between how New Orleans has had sustained success the past four seasons and how Tampa Bay injected additional talent all over its already-skilled team, it didn’t seem out of the question for these two teams to meet up for a third time — especially after the playoffs were expanded to have seven teams from each conference, rather than six.
If Malcolm Jenkins had to put a finger on exactly when he started feeling like he was playing up to his ability within this New Orleans Saints defense, it was probably the Week 8 game Nov. 1 against the Chicago Bears. Maybe this is a coincidence, and maybe it isn’t, but that’s about the time the Saints started playing their best defensive football too. Consider this.
The New Orleans Saints enter the divisional round of the playoffs hoping the third time’s just as charming as the first two. After outscoring Tampa Bay 72-26 while sweeping the regular season series, New Orleans will face the Buccaneers one more time to decide which among them will earn a spot in the NFC championship game. The Tampa Bay team it will host this weekend does not look much like the team that visited the Superdome in Week 1 on Sept.