The NFL Divisional Round finishes on Sunday Night with a matchup between the Bucs and Saints from the Superdome in New Orleans. As always, we have action on the game so let’s dive into our analysis and best bets to get you paid on Sunday evening!
Spread: TB +3 (-105) | NO -3 (-115)
Money Line: TB (+138) | NO (-158)
Total: 52 (O -110, U -110)
Kickoff: 6:40 ET | Mercedes-Benz Superdome | New Orleans, LA
Trent’s Best Bet on the Total
They say it’s one of the hardest things to do in the NFL – beat a team three times in one season. The Saints will look to accomplish that feat after dominating the Bucs in week nine 38-3 and winning at home in the opener, 34-24. When these two faced off in Tampa, I wrote the preview and had the over which did not hit because the Bucs didn’t hold up their end of the deal. I’m going to go with the same bet. Give me the over on 52 points (-110) for a unit. The Buccaneers boast a fantastic rushing defense. There’s literally not a better unit with Tampa allowing only 3.6 yards per carry and 1,289 on the season. Those are both first out of the whole league. The weakness is through the air. We’ve seen Tampa’s secondary get torched time and time again. And sure, torched is a bit of an overstatement but they’ve certainly been exploited. The Chiefs threw for 456 yards, the Rams for 376, Panthers for 340, Falcons for 332 and 258, and a backup quarterback threw for 289 against them last week in the Wild Card round. If a guy like Tyler Heinecke can pick apart your zone, imagine what Drew Brees will do. The reason Brees is so effective at 41 is not because he’s launching 40 yard bombs. It’s because he’s able to dissect your coverage so fast, find a mismatch, and get rid of it. And if none of those options are available or if you go man-to-man, then he dumps it off to Kamara and let’s that man go to work. There will be no shortage in points in this game. The Bucs offense is firing on all cylinders and you know the Saints are going to get after it. Take the over.
Jay’s Best Bet on the Outcome
When it comes to Tom Brady, you know you can’t bet against him. However, in this game, I will have to. There’s a couple reasons why. Sure, the Saints beat the Buccaneers twice during the regular season and both can be considered dominating victories. But that’s not why I’m rolling with the Saints money line at -158 for one unit.
The Bucs defense is good. To explain it better, the Bucs front seven is good. However, there are weaknesses in that secondary. Rookie Antonie Winfield Jr. (94 tackles and three sacks) is doing well in his first season as a pro. However, there are breakdowns in coverage. I’ve noticed that CB Jamel Dean is often targeted. And when watching him play, he either gets called for a penalty or his matchup burns him in coverage. Additionally, Carlton Davis, Jordan Whitehead, and Sean Murphy-Bunting are good players, not great. The thing with the Bucs D is Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles likes to call blitz plays often. My concern with that is if the Saints O-Line can contain it for a few seconds, Brees will find a playmaker. The Bucs secondary is not equipped to handle man-to-man coverage. Drew Brees is an elite QB who knows what defenses will throw at him, and if you give him a little time and space, he will find Micahel Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Emmanuel Sanders, Jared Cook, or even Deonte Harris. I’d also keep an eye on Kamara who returned to action last week without practice, but now, with a game behind him, I think he’ll settle in better this week.
On the other hand, all levels of the Saints defense is rock solid. Moreover, the Saints D-Line could be getting their star back as Trey Hendrickson (13.5 sacks, 2nd in NFL) is listed as questionable. He missed the Wild Card game, but his return would really bolster the Saints pass rush. Furthermore, Bucs G Alex Kappa is out the remainder of the postseason, so Brady will be without one of his starting O-lineman.
The Buccaneers offense is rolling, but can they keep pace with one of the most complete teams in football? I’m not sold on their defense, and defense could be the deciding factor in this matchup. We know both teams can score, but what team will make a momentum-shifting defensive play? It’s an honor to see Brady vs. Brees Part 3. This time it’s for all the marbles. In what could be his final season, Drew Brees and Co. will take care of business in New Orleans.
Our Other Divisional Round Previews & Best Bets
4:35 ET: Los Angeles Rams vs. Green Bay Packers (coming soon)
8:15 ET: Baltimore Ravens vs. Buffalo Bills (coming soon)
3:05 ET: Cleveland Browns vs. Kansas City Chiefs (coming soon)