nfl
28.12.2023

New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Game Preview and Pick: Baker and the Bucs Keep Rolling

The NFC South division was a mess all season, and for a while, it looked like no one wanted to claim it. That is no longer the case, though, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cruising as of late and one win away from securing their third consecutive division title. Standing in the Bucs' way this weekend will be the New Orleans Saints, who sit in second place in the division despite boasting a losing record of 7-8.

While one quarterback in this matchup looks to have rejuvenated their career, the other has been trending in the opposite direction, and with those trends likely continuing this week, Tampa Bay looks to be in a good position to clinch another trip to the postseason.

Game Preview

If there is any positive the Saints have coming into this week, they had a few extra days of rest after losing on Thursday Night Football. For a tumultuous season, Derek Carr put up one of his best performances against LA, throwing for 319 yards and three touchdowns, but that still wouldn’t be enough since the Saints defense allowed a season-high 485 yards.

The Saints' defense posted a (-18.19) EPA, which has them ranked 17th in defensive DVOA heading into this weekend's matchup. This is not to say the Saints' offense does not deserve blame for the position they are in because they certainly do. With Carr’s struggles this year, the Saints' inability to establish the run has only made things worse, as they finished with under 100 rush yards in five of their last seven games.

That trend likely isn’t changing this weekend either since Tampa Bay has had one of the better run defenses in the league, as they just held the Jaguars to 37 rush yards last weekend. On the season, Tampa Bay is 8th in yards allowed per rush attempt and 7th in total rushing yards. After forcing four turnovers and holding the Jaguars to 12 points last weekend, the Buccaneers are now up to 13th in defensive DVOA, and the best part for the Tampa Bay faithful is their offense has been better than their defense recently.

Tampa Bay has gone four straight weeks with a positive EPA on offense, and during that stretch, Baker Mayfield has a 9:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The former number-one pick now has 26 touchdown passes on the season, but almost more importantly, he has just eight interceptions, and the Bucs as a team only have two turnovers in their last four games.

Pick for the Game

With a divisional title in their sights, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are currently (-2.5) point favorites on the Pinnacle Sportsbook, and I think they can pick up a win and cover. Not only are the Bucs 7-3 ATS over their last ten games while the Saints are 3-7 ATS, but the momentum is entirely on the Buccaneers' side.

Baker Mayfield already lit up the Saints' secondary in week four with 246 yards and three touchdowns, and that was before the Bucs figured out their run game. New Orleans’ season-long numbers against the pass may look good, but since their bye week, they’ve only played two potential playoff quarterbacks and finished with a negative EPA on pass plays in both games.

Additionally, the Saints' run defense has allowed 133 or more yards in four of their last five games, which is partially why their defense is ranked 24th in scoring drive percentage. With Tampa Bay fully able to exploit them both through the air and on the ground, the Saints will need their offense to play at an exceptionally high level. Still, without a viable running game, it doesn’t seem feasible that they can stick around in this road matchup.

Recap

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5)(-110) on Pinnacle Sportsbook *odds subject to change

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