Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5) at New Orleans Saints (13-4)
NFC Divisional Playoff
Site: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
Date/Time: Sunday, Jan. 17 3:40 PST/5:40 CST/6:40 EST
They Do Have a History…
This is the third meeting between the NFC South rivals this season and the first time the two have met in the playoffs. There is a major revenge factor in this game as the Buccaneers dropped both contests this season and were out and out embarrassed by New Orleans, 38-3, in front of a national TV audience on Nov. 8. The Saints hold a 37-21 all-time advantage and have won the last five games in a series. Although the idea of a 3-game sweep in the same season sounds fleeting, cbssports.com notes that the team that has gone for the sweep is 14-7 since the the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Vs. The Spread:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
- The Bucs are 4-2 ATS in their last 6 games and 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games vs. the Saints
- The total has gone OVER in 4 of the last 5 Bucs-Saints games in New Orleans
- The total has gone OVER in 15 of Tampa Bay’s last 20 games vs. NFC competition
New Orleans Saints:
- The Saints are 8-1-1 ATS in their last 10 games and they are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 vs, the NFC
- The total has gone UNDER in 7 of New Orleans’ last 10 games
- New Orleans is 6-1 SU in their last seen home games
|Teams||Spread||Money Line||Total Points|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+3 (-105)||+144||O 52 (-105)|
|New Orleans Saints||-3 (-115)||-164||U 52 (-115)|
On the Injury Front
On the Buccaneers front, Running back Ronald Jones returned to practice on Thursday with limited participation as he is healing from injuries to his finger and calf. Jones did not play in last week’s win over Washington and was out Wednesday. Wide receivers Mike Evans (knee) and Chris Godwin (hip/quad) should be good to go as they were limited Thursday as well as Carlton Davis who is nursing a groin. Guard Alex Cappa did not participate.
For the Saints, utility man Taysom Hill did not practice with an injured knee while tackle Terron Armstead, tight end Jared Cook, and defensive end Trey Hendrickson all had limited participation in practice with various injuries and are expected to be in the lineup on Sunday.
When the Buccaneers Have the Ball:
Quarterback Tom Brady engineered the Bucs’ first playoff win since Super Bowl XXXVII so now comes the navigation against the Bucs’ old nemesis. It is hard to believe that Brady, who threw 40 touchdown passes for only the second time in his career could lose to any team three times in the same season when he is playing at this high of a level. The two losses to the Saints were a pair of isolated horrors for Brady as he threw for an average of only 224 yards per game as five of his 12 interceptions were courtesy of the Saints defense, which was responsible for six of the 21 sacks.
Tampa Bay needs to mount a running game behind either Jones or Leonard Fournette as the Buccaneers only rushed for a combined total of 94 yards in these two games. In the second game, New Orleans took a 14-0 lead which snowballed into a 31-0 Buccaneers deficit at halftime as the Bucs had to throw the ball and only accumulated eight rushing yards on five carries. Let’s remember though that Jones had highs in scrimmage yards (1,143), rushing yards (978) and touchdowns (7) this season.
New Orleans is fourth in the NFL again the run and has allowed an average of 70.7 yards on the ground over the last three games.
When the Saints Have the Ball:
Drew Brees once again faces a Tampa Bay pass defense that is in the lower third of the NFL in giving up yardage as the Bucs are 21st against the pass at 246 yards per game, but Tampa Bay’s defense is stocked with playmakers who can counteract yardage with sacks, interceptions, or forced fumbles. It’s a Bucs’ pass rush that tallied 48 sacks this season, so Brees will be under duress most of the afternoon.
Running back Alvin Kamara led the NFL with 21 touchdowns – 16 on the ground and five through the air – and was third in yards from scrimmage at 1,688 while he lead all running backs with 83 receptions. It is hard to focus on why he wouldn’t be option one on the New Orleans game plan in of course the rushing and passing game. The return of Michael Thomas at wide receiver allows for New Orleans to have Brees, Kamara, and the team’s top wide receiver on the field at the same time which didn’t happen hardly at all this season.
Leading tackler Devin White (140 tackles) is back for Tampa Bay after testing positive for COVID-19 and he will obviously be super motivated after missing last week’s win over Washington. Lavonte’ David likely will see lots of matchups on Kamara, who was targeted a team-high 107 times this season, while Davis likely will draw primary coverage on Thomas.
Winner: Buccaneers (+3) 30, Saints 27
Over-Under: Take OVER 52