New Orleans Saints (4-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6)
The Saints are just 4-8, but they’ve played better than their record suggests, ranking 15th in schedule adjusted efficiency. Their biggest problem has been the turnover margin, with a league worst -14, but turnover margins tend to be highly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. In fact, when a team faces an opponent with a turnover margin that is at least 15 points better than theirs (-14 vs. +2 for Tampa Bay), the team with the significantly worse turnover margin entering the game covers the spread at a 54.1% rate.
The Saints are also getting healthier, after being among the most injury affected teams in the league to begin the season. They still remain without top wide receiver Michael Thomas (9 games missed) and talented starting center Erik McCoy (3 games missed), but feature back Alvin Kamara (2 games missed), starting wide receivers Jarvis Landry (5 games missed) and Chris Olave (1 game missed), starting offensive linemen Andrus Peat (4 games missed) and James Hurst (1 game missed), stud edge defenders Cameron Jordan (1 game missed) and Marcus Davenport (2 games missed), as well as talented safety Marcus Maye (4 games missed) have all missed time this season and have since returned, while talented linebacker Pete Werner (3 games missed) and top cornerback Marshon Lattimore (7 games missed) could also return this week.
The Buccaneers, meanwhile, seem to be going in the opposite direction injury wise, missing stud right tackle Tristan Wirfs for the first time this season, while their defense remains without top edge defender Shaq Barrett and will likely also be without their two starting safeties Mike Edwards and Antoine Winfield, which is especially a big deal because the latter is one of the best players in the league at his position. My roster rankings have the Buccaneers just a half point better than the Saints, given the current state of both teams, meaning they should be no more than field goal favorites in this game, if not favorites of less than a field goal.
This line is only 3.5, which might not seem like a big deal, but with 1 in 4 games decided by 3 points or fewer and 1 in 6 games decided by 3 points exactly, getting this line on the other side of three is very significant, especially since the Buccaneers probably deserve to be favored by less than a field goal. I see this being a relatively close game, even if the Buccaneers can win, with the two most likely outcomes being either team winning by exactly a field goal, both of which would cover this spread, so the Saints are worth a bet at +3.5.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19 New Orleans Saints 17
Pick against the spread: New Orleans +3.5