Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6) at New Orleans Saints (6-8)
This is a tough one. On one hand, the Saints are the better of these two teams, despite the Buccaneers having a 2 game lead in the standings and winning a close matchup between these two teams in Tampa Bay a couple weeks back. The Saints enter this game with a point differential of +14, as opposed to -9 for the Buccaneers. The Saints actually rank 3rd in the NFL with a +10 offensive touchdown margin, but are just 6-8 as a result of because of a -4 return touchdown differential and 6 losses by 6 points or fewer, including 4 losses by 3 points or fewer. In terms of first down rate differential, the Saints rank 8th, while the Buccaneers rank 24th. Despite that, this line is at 3, suggesting these two teams are equal, so we’re getting some line value with the Saints.
On the other hand, the Saints are in a tough spot with a trip to Atlanta on deck, while the Buccaneers get to host the last place Carolina Panthers. Divisional home favorites are just 23-61 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road favorites. On top of that, favorites are 61-97 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites, which the Buccaneers almost definitely will be next week at home against the Panthers. With another tough game on deck, the Saints could have trouble playing their best, while the Buccaneers should be completely focused.
The Buccaneers are also in a good spot in their second of two road games. Teams are 142-108 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 113-74 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 239-254 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.94 points per game, as opposed to 341-476 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.96 points per game. I’m taking the Saints, but this is a no confidence pick.
New Orleans Saints 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23
Pick against the spread: New Orleans -3