Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6 SU, 9-5 ATS) vs. New Orleans Saints (6-8 SU, 8-5-1 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Saturday December 24th, 4:25PM (EST) 2016
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome New Orleans, L.A.
by Jay, NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: TB +3/NO -3
Over/Under Total: 52.5
Tampa Bay's 5 game winning streak was snapped on Sunday night in Dallas as the Bucs fell to the Cowboys 26-20. Despite the loss, the Buccaneers proved that they can play with the NFC's elite and nearly won the game despite 3 interceptions from quarterback Jameis Winston. Now the Buccaneers are in a desperate bounce back situation to keep their playoff hopes alive when they go on the road to face off against a familiar NFC South Divisional rival in the New Orleans Saints inside the Superdome on Christmas Eve.
Despite the Saints 6-8 SU record, their big win over Arizona last week mathematically kept them in the playoff hunt as well. The Saints would need to win out and get some help in order to make the playoffs. While that possibility is definitely a long shot, the Saints proved last week that they are tough to beat when they are firing on all cylinders. Quarterback Drew Brees blasted an Arizona defense that ranked 4th in DVOA against the pass for 389 yards with 4 touchdowns and no picks.
WR Brandin Cooks had her first breakout game since week 5 as he turned 7 catches into 186 yards with two touchdowns. Michael Thomas and Willie Snead also got in on the action with 15 combined catches for another 128 yards and a score. It was the first time in recent memory that all of the Saints starting receivers had a strong day collectively. It was also a very distinct different performance than the Saints offense was able to compile against Tampa Bay defense just two weeks ago in a 16-11 defeat. In that game, Brees converted just 25 of 41 passing for 257 yards without any touchdowns and 3 interceptions for a total quarterback rating of 28.7 equaling his lowest total of the year.
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So which Brees can we expect in this rematch? Well I highly doubt he is going to be as inefficient as he was in Tampa. For starters, that game was an outlier even in terms of bad outings for Brees. Secondly, Brees and the entire offense are historically much better at home evident by the stark difference in their home/away splits. I think the total (52.5) speaks towards that fact as well. Basically, the Saints should be able to move the football and score points. Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott carved up the Buccaneers defense to hit 32 of 36 passing for 279 yards in the Sunday night loss. Therefore do not let Brees and New Orleans last offensive output against the Buccaneers scare you as they should be able to post much better numbers this time around.
I believe the better question is what is going to happen on the other side of the football with the Tampa Bay offense and the Saints defense? I think most casual fans automatically assume the Saints defense is trash just from general misconception and last week's 48-41 shootout will not help silence those thoughts. However, New Orleans numerous big plays in last week's win over the Cardinals forced the game script and pace to pick up which led to the high scoring affair. However, New Orleans's is a bit better than the statistics show. Before last week's shootout with Arizona, the Saints had only given up 22 points per game in their last 7 games which is right at the league average.
I am not making a case for the Saints defense from a fantasy perspective or to expect any shocking performance here. I am just saying they are capable if they game script does not produce a shootout. Considering Tampa Bay's struggles to run the football, I think this game will rely heavily on the play of quarterback Jameis Winston and the Saints ability to contain WR Mike Evans. Doug Martin has averaged 20 carries in the last 6 games but has only picked up more 70 yards just once. Martin has some potential for a better outing in this game against a weak New Orleans defense but I do not see him being the difference maker in this spot.
Instead, I believe this opportunity for Tampa falls on the arm of Winston who has not played very well in recent weeks. In fact, Winston has tossed 4 picks compared to just 3 touchdowns in his last 3 outings. As a result, Mike Evans production has really taken a hit. After averaging 100 yards receiving for 4 straight weeks, Evans has caught just 11 passes for 139 yards in his last 3 games combined without any scores. Therefore if Tampa Bay is going to keep their selves in this playoff picture, both of those trends have to change on Saturday.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Tampa Bay has played well inside the Superdome covering the mark in 9 of their last 14 games in New Orleans. I think most will be expecting the Buccaneers to bounce back in this situation but I believe their offense is in desperate need for some change. They are not getting the job done especially upfront and that will be evident when New Orleans putting pressure on the Buccaneers to keep pace. Take the Saints -3
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