New Orleans Saints (1-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)
The Saints’ won their first game of the season with Sean Payton returning and now have won 10 straight home games with Payton as Head Coach, which includes the entirety of the 2011 season. It was an impressive win over a solid Atlanta team, but they are definitely helped by their home field advantage. Their real tests this season are going to come on the road, especially outside. Since 2008, Drew Brees has completed 68.2% of his passes for an average of 8.1 YPA, 135 touchdowns, and 52 interceptions inside, while completing 66.4% of his passes for an average of 7.5 YPA, 57 touchdowns, and 32 interceptions outside. That’s a difference of about 11 points of QB rating.
This week they go to Tampa Bay, who actually beat them in Tampa Bay in 2011, when the Saints went 13-3 and the Buccaneers went 4-12. Now, the Saints are probably not as good as a 13-win team and the Buccaneers aren’t as bad as a 4-win team. They can’t be overlooked for that reason.The Buccaneers have a ton of non-quarterback talent, even without Carl Nicks, who might suit up this week after returning to practice and declaring himself MRSA free, but probably not for conditioning reasons. Between Darrelle Revis, Dashon Goldson, Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy, Doug Martin, and Vincent Jackson, they still have 6 of my top-200 players in the NFL on the field this week and solid starters all over the place after them.
The problem is the quarterback Josh Freeman. It’s becoming more and more evident that Josh Freeman will not last the season. First the Buccaneers drafted Mike Glennon in the 3rd round and then refused to call Freeman the long-term starter. Then they voted him out as team captain, which almost never happens. Now there are reports that he’s overslept and missed meetings and missed the team pictures and other reports that there is something really wrong with him off the field.
Freeman certainly didn’t do anything to help his cause week 1, completing 15 of 31 for 210 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. He’ll probably have a better game this week against the Saints as the Saints’ defense, even at its best, is not as good as the Jets’ defense, and he’s been incredibly streaky in his career and shown he’s capable of great games, which scares me if I were going against him, especially with the Saints playing on the road, outside. However, I can’t wager anything significant on Freeman at this point.
New Orleans Saints 23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
Pick against spread: Tampa Bay +3.5