In an important NFC South divisional game, New Orleans Saints will travel to Raymond James Stadium in Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they will be doing so as narrow one-point favorites (1pm ET, Sunday).
Considering that the Saints got their first win two weeks ago against the San Diego Chargers, it might be hard to believe that New Orleans is actually favored against the Bucs, who have two wins and who are playing the all-important game on their home turf.
Maybe it is because the Saints are coming off of a bye or perhaps it is because Jonathan Vilma will be making his return to the team. Whatever the reason though, both the Saints and Bucs will need to win this game if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Drew Brees and the Offense vs. Tampa Bay’s Defense
Despite the problems the Saints have had this season, the one constant has been their quarterback of now seven seasons, Drew Brees. The New Orleans QB has led the offense to score at least 24 points in each of their five games. He has thrown 1,720 yards and 14 touchdowns with only six interceptions. On top of that, Brees has maintained a 58.9 completion percentage this season.
With the incredible success Brees has had this season, it is downright surprising that the Saints are actually 1-4 and struggling to contend in the competitive NFC South. The reason for this has been their defense, which has seemed to be affected most by the ‘Bounty Gate’ situation.
While Brees and the offense have scored 141 points, the defense has given up 154. Brees has led the offense to the league’s best 326.8 passing yards a game and eighth best 28.2 points a game. The Saints D however has given up 30.8 points a game ranking them 30th and are dead last in giving up over 450 total yards a game.
While the Saints’ defense has been bad this season, they actually aren’t the defense that is going to decide this game on Sunday. You see, Brees, who leads the league’s best passing offense will be going against a Tampa Bay defense that ranks 31st in allowing 312.2 pass yards a game.
To put it simply, Bucs’ QB Josh Freeman cannot outduel Brees on the offense and with Tampa Bay’s defense actually worse than New Orleans, they will cancel each other out. Brees on the other hand will have a field day and should have open field to throw to all of his receivers including Marques Colston, who has caught 28 passes for 444 yards and four touchdowns and tight end Jimmy Graham, who has 25 receptions for 252 yards and three touchdowns.
Close Games for Both Teams
Although it might sound somewhat surprising, the seasons of the Buccaneers and Saints have really been quite similar.
While Brees and the offense have completely outscored the Buccaneers this season, both teams have put their offense in a position to win. The Saints lost two games this season, one an overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and the second, a one point loss to the Green Bay Packers, by less than four total points. They then proceeded to win their next game by a touchdown, perhaps pointing to a momentum swing going in favor of New Orleans. Needing to win approximately nine of their last 11 to find a way to pass the still undefeated Atlanta Falcons, the Saints will have to come out of these close games as the winner and not on the other end.
Tampa Bay meanwhile has likewise seen two of their games end in close scores. With the exception of a seven point shootout the Bucs lost to the New York Giants and the blowout victory they scored over the Chiefs, the remaining games for Tampa Bay have finished within six points. Those include a two point loss over the Washington Redskins and their all-star quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Looking at the Bucs and why their defense has really struggled this year, one might point to the fact that they have only played one game where they faced a quarterback that is class. In two victories, the Bucs allowed 10 points to struggling Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers and 10 points to back-up Brady Quinn of Kansas City.
In contrast Tampa Bay’s three defeats have come against the NFC East powerhouses of Eli Manning (510 YDS, 3 TD, 3 INT in game against the Bucs) of the Giants, Tony Romo (283 YDS, 1 INT) of the Dallas Cowboys and Griffin (323 YDS) of the Washington Redskins.
Two Teams, Zero Running Games
Another similarity between Tampa Bay and New Orleans is the fact that neither team has a reliable and efficient running game.
The Saints have not been focused on the run in the Drew Brees era. They are more than comfortable handing the ball off to their quarterback to run the offense. In fact on the season, Brees has had the chance to throw the ball no less than 36 attempts. This includes two games, where he has thrown 45+ and two games where he has thrown 52+.
On the contrary, the Saints three running backs: Darren Sproles (17 ATT), Mark Ingram (37 ATT) and Pierre Thomas (37 ATT) have only carried the ball for a total of 91 times on the season.
The Bucs meanwhile have done a little better in terms of running the ball and have the league’s 17th best rushing offense. Led by rookie back Doug Martin and the speedy Josh Freeman at quarterback, the Bucs average 101.8 rushing yards a game.
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Picks
Both teams come into this game with a similar profile. The difference however is that New Orleans still believes it is a legitimate playoff contender. In order for that to happen, they must start winning and that means beating a favorable match-up in the Buccaneers.
- Expect Tampa Bay (-125 on moneyline) to keep it close but with the Saints (+105 on moneyline) only having to concede one point New Orleans are a good bet -1pt @ -120 with BetOnline Sportsbook. If you are not American back this with Bet365.