New Orleans Saints (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-13)
The Saints were eliminated from the playoffs last week with their 5th straight home loss, a loss to Atlanta which dropped them to 6-9 on the season. However, they’ve played well enough this season to suggest that if they played an infinite amount of 16 game seasons, they’d make the playoffs more often than not. It didn’t work out that way for them this year, but they’re still better than their record, which gives us value with them here as mere 3.5 point favorites in Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers, meanwhile, have been absolutely terrible this year, moving the chains at a 66.42% rate, as opposed to 74.75% for their opponents, a differential of -8.33% that ranks 30th in the NFL. The Saints have a horrible defense, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 76.99% rate, but their offense has moved the chains at a significantly better rate than their opponents, as they’ve moved them at a 79.17% rate, among the best in the league, led by quarterback Drew Brees, who leads the NFL in completion percentage at 69.6 and has an outside shot of finishing with his 3rd career season of 70%+ completion percentage, as many as every other quarterback in NFL history combined. The Saints differential of 2.19% ranks 11th in the NFL. This line is way too low, especially when you take into account the Buccaneers’ home struggles in recent years. They are 14-32 ATS at home since 2009, including 0-7 straight up and 2-5 ATS this season. This season, they move the chains at a 67.20% rate at home, as opposed to 74.19% for their opponents, a pathetic differential of -6.99%.
Why are the Saints 6-9 if they move the chains so well? Well, their defense has been horrible, but we’ve already established their offense has done more than enough to make up for it, so why isn’t it showing up in the standings? Well, a -11 turnover margin, a -4 return touchdown margin, and a 2-5 record in games decided by a touchdown or less have a lot to do with it. Fortunately, those are much easier problems to fix than pure talent level, even from one week to another. Drew Brees is 23-7 ATS off of a loss with Sean Payton on the sideline since 2008 anyway. That talent level should shine through here against a drastically inferior opponent with minimal homefield advantage. I have a lot of confidence in New Orleans.
New Orleans Saints 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17
Pick against the spread: New Orleans -3.5