Saints-Bucs best bets: Stakes high in this NFC South rematch
These NFC South rivals may be amid contrasting campaigns - the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are trying to lock down the NFC's top seed while the New Orleans Saints scrap for a wild-card berth - but the Bucs have yet to win a regular-season game against New Orleans in the Tom Brady era.
They'll look to right the ship on Sunday night. Here's how we're betting Saints-Bucs:
C Jackson Cowart: Buccaneers -11.5
The Buccaneers are the best team in the league, and it would take a lot for me to bet against them in this revenge spot against the Saints, who beat Tampa in Week 8.
In his 21 years as a starter, Brady is 14-6 against the spread against clubs that beat him in their previous meeting that campaign. Brady's also 44-33-1 ATS in his career as a double-digit favorite, including 6-1 ATS since joining the Bucs in 2020.
New Orleans owns a top-five defense per DVOA behind the NFL's best run defense. But the unit ranks outside of the top 10 against the pass and will have its hands full against the presumptive MVP, who has thrown for 731 yards and six TDs in his last two games.
The Saints will also attempt to pull off the upset without head coach Sean Payton, who joined the COVID-19 reserve list earlier this week, behind their replacement leader in defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. This team will be lucky to score 20 points on Sunday, which won't be near enough to keep pace with Brady and co.
Alex Moretto: Under 45.5
Brady's lost all three of his regular-season meetings with New Orleans since joining Tampa, but I feel very confident saying he won't lose this one. Whether the Buccaneers cover or not remains undetermined, but I'm certainly not taking the points with the Saints on Sunday night.
While I do feel good about New Orleans' secondary - which remains the healthiest part of the team - limiting the damage here, I don't see how the club scores in this game. The Saints will adopt another run-heavy script, but it's hard to see them finding success against Todd Bowles' defense without tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead, who are both ruled out.
This matchup has the feel of a routine night for Tampa's defense, while the offense can largely sleepwalk to a routine win after a dramatic overtime victory against the Bills in Week 14.
Matt Russell: Saints +11.5
A few things have changed since then. Taysom Hill is now the full-time quarterback, and while he's less likely to challenge the Buccaneers' banged-up secondary with Alvin Kamara looking as healthy as he has all season, the Saints can manage to keep this within the number.
New Orleans won outright as 4.5-point home underdogs in the campaign's first meeting, and now we're seeing a 7-point swing towards Tampa Bay. As we discussed weeks ago, the Saints defense has thrived against Brady - as much as one can - while the Bucs' run defense has also fallen to 21st in the NFL in opponents' yards per carry. Between its defense and a clock-controlling approach on offense, New Orleans can make this one interesting on Sunday night.