In the Numbers: Silver Dagger

New Orleans' game Sunday at Tampa Bay has what some kids would call ginormous ramifications.

A win gives the Saints a two-game lead in the division, with games in hand against Carolina and Tampa Bay.

A loss opens the division right back up, especially with Carolina playing Atlanta in what some are predicting as the upset special of the week.

Sunday is a game the Saints (4-1) sorely need to keep hopes alive of home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

Tampa Bay (3-2), meanwhile, would put itself right back in the race for the division with a win.

This week's cliche: We can only control what we can control.

It's All History

New Orleans and Tampa Bay began meeting in 1977 and for much of that first decade, both were fairly bad teams.

But that's not the case anymore; each has won a Super Bowl.

The Saints and Buccaneers have split their past six meetings, with New Orleans going 2-1 in Tampa while Tampa Bay is 2-1 at the Superdome.

The Saints own a 22-16 lead in the series and are 10-6 in games played in Tampa.

Passing by the NFL on offense
Since Sean Payton became the Saints' head coach in 2006, one thing has remained constant the offense has been revolutionary and darn near impossible to stop.

New Orleans is third in the NFL since 2006 in points per game (27.1) and in 2011, ranks fifth at 31.4 points per game.

Other stats are just as telling, if not more, though.

This season, the Saints are second behind New England in total offense at 452 yards per game. But since 2006, the Saints are No. 1, averaging 391.7 yards per game, 10 more than the Patriots have averaged.

New Orleans is second this season in passing offense, coming in at 336.6 air yards per game. Since 2006, however, the Saints lead the league at 285.6 yards, 20 more than the next best entry.

But the most impressive one and the one that the coaching staff undoubtedly turns to is third down, where the Saints lead the NFL in 2011, converting 58.7 percent of the time (44 of 75). Since 2006, the Saints convert 47.4 percent of their third downs, second-best in the NFL

The final stat that stands out yards after the catch, a metric that helps the Saints keep onto the ball and extend drives or score quickly.

Since 2006, the Saints are tops in the NFL with 11,657 yards after the catch. Green Bay is second with 11,040 and the Patriots third with 10,991. This season, the Saints are third with 846 yards after the catch behind only Green Bay (847) and San Diego (906).

Leading the pack:

Team leaders for the Saints heading into Jacksonville
Rushing (Total) Mark Ingram: 62 carries, 216 yards, 2 TD
Rushing (YPC) Darren Sproles: 7.1 yards per carry on 26 runs
Receiving (Total) Jimmy Graham: 32 catches for 496 yards, 3 TDs
Receiving (Catches) Jimmy Graham: 32 catches for 496 yards, 3 TDs
Scoring (non-kicker): Jimmy Graham: 18 points (3 TD, 3 PA); Robert Meachem 18 points (3 TD, 3 PA); Darren Sproles 18 points (3 TD, 3 PA)

Comparing the Teams (stats/rank)
Offense Yards/Game: Saints (452.0/2); Bucs (336.6/20)
Sacks allowed: Saints (11); Bucs 10)
3rd Down %: Saints (58.7%/1); Bucs (43.8%/8)
Red Zone %: Saints (45.8%/22); Bucs (33.3%/27t)
Defense Yards/Game: Saints (354.6/16); Bucs (378.0/23)
Sacks recorded: Saints (13/109 yards); Bucs (14)
3rd Down %: Saints (41.5%/20); Bucs (32.7%/6t)
Red Zone %: Saints (64.3/29); Bucs (42.1%/6t)

2011 3's Company (third-down analysis)
75 plays overall of which 17 were runs and 58 were passes. They have averaged 7.53 yards per run and 9.09 yards per pass play.
Third-and-short (1-2 yards) - 12 runs, 9 first downs; 7 passes, 4 first downs
Third-and-(3-5) - 3 run, 2 first down; 15 passes, 8 first downs
Third-and-(6-10) - 2 runs, 1 first downs; 24 passes, 14 first downs
Third-and-(11-15) - 0 run, 0 first downs; 7 passes, 6 first downs
Third-and-(16-plus) - 0 runs, 0 first downs; 5 passes, 0 first downs

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