Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) at New Orleans Saints (1-0)
Last week, I bet on the Buccaneers as 2.5-point road favorites in Dallas because of how well Tom Brady led teams have done as underdogs or favorites of 3 or fewer in his career. The Buccaneers covered, pushing Brady’s career ATS record to 58-28 when not favored by 3 points or more, and they now are 2.5-point road favorites again this week, this time in New Orleans. That’s down from Tampa Bay -3 a week ago on the early line, a significant shift, given that about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly three points.
In another game where Brady’s team just basically just has to win to cover, it would seem to make sense to pick them again, but this is not nearly as sure of a thing as last week, for a couple reasons. For one, the Saints have had a lot of success against Brady in his tenure with the Buccaneers and, still with a dominant defense, they could easily do so again this week. That’s especially true because of the Buccaneers’ injury situation, which is the second reason this isn’t as sure of a thing as last week.
Having already lost left guard Aaron Stinnie and center Ryan Jensen to injury this season, the Buccaneers will now be without talented left tackle Donovan Smith this week with an arm injury he suffered last week. With Shaq Mason replacing Alex Cappa at right guard this off-season, the Buccaneers now have just one offensive lineman from last season left and not nearly as good of an offensive line as a result. On top of that, they have a receiving corps that is missing Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown from the last couple years and that now will be without Chris Godwin, who is out with a hamstring injury suffered in the opener.
Between Smith and Godwin going down in the past week, it’s perfectly reasonable that this line moved off three and in fact this is right where my calculated line is. The Buccaneers still have a strong defense of their own and could win this game as a result, but Tom Brady will have his work cut out for him against the Saints defense, given the issues around him on offense right now. I’m still taking the Buccaneers, expecting them to sneak out a close, low scoring victory, but this pick is only for pick ‘em purposes and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was a Saints upset victory.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 New Orleans Saints 17
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -2.5