TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (9-6)
at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-4)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Line: New Orleans -7.5, Total: 46.5
The Buccaneers look to keep their slim playoff hopes alive when they travel to New Orleans to face a team still hopeful of the top seed in the NFC. Tampa Bay needs to beat New Orleans, have Green Bay lose to Chicago and the New York Giants lose to Washington for the Bucs to become playoff bound. The Saints clinched a playoff berth with their win over Atlanta last Monday and will be the No. 1 seed in the conference if they beat Tampa Bay and Carolina upsets the Falcons. Odds.
The Buccaneers have not beaten a team with a winning record all season, being outscored by an average of 28 to 15 in those five contests. That includes a 31-6 home loss to New Orleans in Week 6, when the Bucs were outrushed 212 to 42. Despite the weak output in that contest, Tampa Bay has run the ball pretty effectively all year, ranking seventh in the NFL with 128 rushing YPG. Rookie LeGarrette Blount, who didn’t have a carry in that Week 6 meeting, leads the team with 941 rushing yards (5.2 YPC) and six touchdowns. He has 445 of those yards (6.5 YPC) in the past four games, including a season-best 164 yards in last week’s 38-15 win over Seattle. QB Josh Freeman has had a great second season, throwing for 3,196 yards, 23 TD and only 6 INT. He tossed five touchdown passes against Seattle last week to give him 13 TD and just one pick in his past seven games. On the defensive side of the ball, Tampa Bay ranks sixth in passing defense (201 YPG), but are a dismal 28th against the run (133 YPG). Scores.
Saints rookie RB Chris Ivory will look to expose Tampa’s soft run-stop unit again, after rushing for 158 yards on just 15 carries (10.5 YPC) in their previous meeting. Ivory has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, but is expected to return to the field on Sunday. RB Pierre Thomas (3.2 YPC this year) is questionable to play because of an ankle injury. QB Drew Brees racked up 263 passing yards and three touchdowns in the Week 6 blowout win in Tampa Bay. For his career, Brees has thrown for 2,491 yards, 21 TD and 8 INT in 10 games versus the Buccaneers. Brees will be without his top receiver on Sunday as Marques Colston (84 rec, 1,023 yds, 7 TD) is doubtful to play after having his knee scoped earlier this week. New Orleans should be able to contain Freeman with its second-best pass defense (191 YPG), but Blount could have another big day against a Saints run defense ranked 18th in the NFL (114 YPG).
Tampa Bay is 8-3 ATS (6-5 SU) in its past 11 trips to the Superdome and the FoxSheets also expect Tampa Bay to cover the spread on Sunday, based on these two highly-rated stats.
Play On – Road teams (TAMPA BAY) – revenging a loss against opponent by 14 points or more, with a winning record on the season. (28-4 over the last 5 seasons.) (87.5%, +23.6 units. Rating = 4*).
Play Against – Home favorites (NEW ORLEANS) – average rushing team (3.5 to 4.5 YPR) against a team with a poor rushing defense (>=4.5 YPR), after gaining 75 or less rushing yards last game. (40-14 over the last 10 seasons.) (74.1%, +24.6 units. Rating = 3*).
This four-star FoxSheets trend expects the game will finish Over the Total:
NEW ORLEANS is 10-0 OVER (+10.0 Units) vs. excellent punt coverage teams, allowing <= 7.5 yards per return in the second half of the season over the last 3 seasons. The average score was NEW ORLEANS 30.4, OPPONENT 28.8 – (Rating = 4*). Las Vegas odds.