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Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints Pick.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7 SU, 9-3-1 ATS) vs. New Orleans Saints (5-8 SU, 6-7 ATS)
NFL Week 15
Date/Time: Sunday, December 16th, 2012, 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
TV: FOX/DirecTV 707
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: TB +3/NO -3
Over/Under Total: 54
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With the “Bounty-gate” season of turmoil continuing to sink the New Orleans Saints, this Sunday at least they can enjoy the role of spoiler and crush the Tampa Bay Buccaneers slim hopes of an NFC playoff birth when the Saints host the Bucs in the Superdome in a battle of NFC South rivals on Fox.
So much has been made of the Saints and their struggles this season, but those struggles hit a new low when they were embarrassed on the road last weekend against the New York Giants, 52-27. The Saints offense had four more turnovers against the Giants defense and Eli Manning threw for four touchdowns to four different receivers in the rout in what Saints fans are hoping is finally rock bottom.
But while the loss to the Giants was just another bitter pill for the Saints to swallow in what has become a fistful of pills and whiskey chaser type of season in New Orleans, at least they didn’t have their hearts cut out of them like the Buccaneers did last week.
Tampa Bay looked like they were on their way to a 7-6 record and one-game out of the NFC wild card chase with an 11-point lead and just 3:55 left to play, when the Philadelphia Eagles rallied and stole the game away with a touchdown as time expired for a stunning, 23-21, win in Tampa. It was the fourth time the Bucs defense has blown a fourth-quarter lead in recent weeks, and could turn out to be the nail in the Bucs playoff coffin, even though they’re still mathematically alive in the wild card chase.
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Despite all of the troubles down in the Big Easy, the Saints opened as the “standard” 3-point favorites at home. After most of the early money has come in on the Saints, the number has moved up to minus -3.5 at a few sportsbooks, but a majority of them are sitting right at -3 still.
The over/under total opened at 54 and has held firm at most of the properties in Las Vegas and several of the bigger online sportsbooks, but a few are starting to drop the hook moving the number to 53.5 to take the push out of the equation.
The early steam is coming in on the Saints for several reasons, with the main one being that they can’t drop much further then they already have following last week’s dud in New York. Drew Brees rarely plays back-to-back games as bad as his last one, although the Giants game wasn’t even close to being “his” fault but a total team effort (or lack of effort to be exact).
The other big reason for all of the action on New Orleans is related to the Tampa Bay defense as in their league-worst pass defense that is allowing over 311 yards a game in the air. The Bucs have lost their top two corners, one to suspension (Eric Wright) and the other to trade (Aqib Talib), so they’ve been reduced to starting rookies Leonard Johnson, Mark Barron and second-year guy Anthony Gaitor along with Ronde Barber in the secondary. It doesn’t help that the Bucs don’t get much pressure (24 sacks - 25th in NFL) either, so if Foles can carve them up for 381 yards just imagine what Brees and the Saints spread attack can do.
The best hope for the Buccaneers will be to have long, sustained drives on offense to keep the ball away from Brees and their secondary on the sidelines. They’ll likely try and do that with plenty of touches for running back Doug Martin, and considering the Saints are the NFL’s worst run defense (152 ypg), chances are they should be successful.
What might help the Bucs on Sunday is the fact that the Bucs-Saints series has been a bizarre series lately. In 2008 and 2011 both teams won at home (Saints won 27-16 in Nov. last year), but in 2009 and 2010 it was the opposite, with the road team stealing the win on the road. So if the weirdness continues, and factoring in the Saints victory earlier this year in Tampa (35-28 in week 7), “logic” would say that the Bucs are due for a big win this weekend on the road in the Superdome. I know I’m reaching, but Tampa has been one of the best wagers this season, and bizarre is the only way to explain it sometimes.
On top of the “bizarre” angle, the Buccaneers are also 7-2 ATS in their last nine visits to New Orleans, and the road team has covered in this series in six of the last eight games.
What’s also typical of division rivalry games is that the teams know each other so well it’s hard to get much of an edge, which usually produces an under against the total. This series follows that as well, with the under going 7-1 in the last eight meetings.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This is a real bad matchup for the Saints. They have a poor defense and won’t be able to stop the dual threat of Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson. I like TB to win and cover here.
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