Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4) +3.5, 41.5 O/U at New Orleans Saints (5-6) -3.5, Superdome, New Orleans, 4.15pm EST Sunday
by The Crazy Snake of Predictem.com
The result of this game comes down to one major factor for mine. Will Jeff Garcia play and will he be at his best? If the answer to both of those questions is “yes” I will be all over this Tampa Bay +3.5 mark. It is my opinion that the Saints are imposters and will be shown up badly if Tampa Bay is at full strength for this clash. There’ll be no need to wonder about the winner of the NFC South any longer. It will be done and dusted and they can ink in the big T as soon as the final whistle blows.
So why am I suggesting New Orleans is playing with our minds? They beat up on Carolina last week in a big way. They have won 5 of their past 7 after an 0-4 start. Ok, just look at who they have beaten on that run: Seattle, Atlanta, San Francisco, a Garrard-less Jacksonville and a Carolina unit decimated by injuries. Not much there to boast about in my opinion.
On the flip side, their resurgence has coincided with the solid recent form of Marques Colston who has returned to something like his form of last season after a slow start. But even so, Sean Payton doesn’t have this team traveling at anywhere near the level of last season, where they took all before them and were strongly fancied to win it all at one point.
Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has improved significantly on offense from last season and now has a weapon with which to capitalise on their stellar defense. Much credit must go to Monte Kiffin, who has this D working at a level well beyond where the names might suggest they should be. Add Jeff Garcia to the offense, where he has completed over 60% of his passes and has a rating just below 100 and you have the makings of a team that can go places. If defense wins championships then this team certainly has a defense capable of that feat. And with an average offense, serviced by Garcia and with weapons such as Joey Galloway, compared with a terrible offense of last year serviced by Bruce Gradkowski, you can immediately see where this team has taken up slack.
Look at last week’s numbers when Gradkowski took over from Garcia after he bruised his back and you will see that Tampa will regress at lightning speed should Garcia go down. Tampa Bay was outgained 412 yards to 192 last week yet still won. Gradkowski completed just 9 of 19 passes for 106 yards and Washington allowed Tampa just 15 yards of total offense for the second half last week. That the Bucs held on at all was a testament to their spirit and their tremendous defensive capabilities.
The Snake’s Bite: This play really is a no-brainer, people. Wait until late to see if Garcia lines up, and if he isn’t there you can back NO with confidence to cover. If he plays, then I would not only back Tampa at the +3.5 point spread but straight up at the +172 I saw with Pinnacle and others just this morning. Even if Tampa Bay shortens significantly on any positive Garcia news, I would take then down to +140, such is my confidence of their ability to win with a healthy Garcia on board.