Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) at New Orleans Saints (10-5)
This game is very important to the Saints. If they lose here, they can be knocked out of the playoffs entirely if the Cardinals lose to the 49ers. Also, if the Panthers somehow lose earlier in the day, the Saints can get a first round bye with a win here. Sean Payton has already said the Saints will be approaching this game like a playoff game and that’s very reasonable. This game doesn’t mean anything for the Buccaneers, but their players will be playing for future contracts and the like so they’ll probably put a lot into this one as well, especially because they would love a chance to eliminate a division rival.
In spite of that, I still really like the Saints. Their recent 2 game road trip did not go well for them as they lost as big favorites in St. Louis and then lost on a late drive to the Panthers in Carolina, losing the division lead in the process. However, now they are back at home, where they are essentially an auto-bet. As long as Sean Payton is on the sideline and Drew Brees is under center, the Saints are 30-10 ATS at home since 2008 and they are 15-0-1 ATS at home over their last 16 home games with Drew Brees and Sean Payton. They’ve won all 16 of those games by an average of about 20.5 points per game, with just three being decided by 10 points or less and just one being decided by less than 6 points. Given that, getting the Saints as 13 point favorites here at home over the lowly Buccaneers is stealing.
I have a 13-1 ATS record picking Saints games this season and I would be 13-0-1 ATS if I had gotten New Orleans -3 against the 49ers a few weeks ago, which is where the line ended, instead of -3.5, where I got it. I’ve done that by betting them blindly at home and almost always going against them on the road. The only time I didn’t was when they were mere 1 point favorites in Chicago early this season, when the Bears were overrated. That’s their only road cover of the season as they are 1-6 ATS on the road, but, again, now they are back home.
It also helps the Saints that they are coming off of a loss as they are 17-5 ATS off of a loss since 2008 as long as Sean Payton is on the sideline and Drew Brees is under center. They were unable to come through in this situation last week, but they still almost beat a very tough Carolina team on the road, despite their road struggles. They definitely play better off of a loss. Besides, last week was a road game and now they are back home, where they are 12-2 ATS off of a loss since 2008 with Sean Payton, including 10-0 ATS off of a road loss.
Even before you take into account the Saints’ home dominance and how well they play off of a loss, we’re getting line value with the Saints. They rank 3rd in the NFL in terms of rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 76.51% rate, as opposed to 68.84% for their opponents, a differential of 7.67%. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, rank 29th in the NFL in terms of rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 66.11% rate, as opposed to 72.16% for their opponents, a differential of -6.05%. That suggests this line should be around 16.5, instead of 12.5, again even before we take into account the Saints home dominance and how well they play off of a loss.
They only thing the Buccaneers have working for them is that they are road underdogs off of a road loss, a situation teams are 101-64 ATS in since 2008. Teams cover at roughly that rate in that situation historically as well, no matter what year you use to cut off your sample size. It’s not a new thing. However, I don’t think that’s going to protect them from getting blown out. I have a lot of confidence in the Saints.
New Orleans Saints 34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10
Pick against spread: New Orleans -13