The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3) can clinch the NFC South with a win over the New Orleans Saints (6-7) on Sunday night. The Saints were able to end their five-game losing streak with a win over the Jets on Sunday, but despite recent success against the Buccaneers, they are the biggest underdog they have ever been under head coach Sean Payton. Let’s take a look at the NFL odds.
New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, December 19, 2021 – 08:20 PM EST at Raymond James Stadium
The Buccaneers (7-6 ATS) are an 11-point favorite over the Saints (6-7 ATS) at many of BMR’s top sportsbooks. Payton is 6-1 ATS and 6-1 SU in his last seven games against Tampa Bay, but he has never been on this side of such a big spread before. In his career, Payton is 5-1 ATS and 0-6 SU as an underdog of at least 7 points. Does he have any tricks up his sleeve to stop the Buccaneers from winning their first division title since 2007?
Week 8 Recap: Saints 36, Buccaneers 27
For the second year in a row, it looks like the Saints hit their peak with a win over Tampa Bay that still ultimately led to their downfall. Last season, the Saints destroyed Tampa Bay 38-3 in Week 9, but that was the game where quarterback Drew Brees first injured his ribs. It led to a collapsed lung and Brees was never the same quarterback the rest of the year, including his miserable playoff performance in the loss to Tampa Bay, the final game of Brees’ career.
This year, the Saints were 4-2 and playing Tampa Bay in Week 8 before new starting quarterback Jameis Winston tore his ACL, ending his 2021 season. Not to be outdone, backup Trevor Siemian came into the game and did enough to get the Saints a 36-27 win. It helped that the defense forced Tom Brady into three turnovers, including a game-clinching pick-six by P.J. Williams with 1:24 left.
But despite being up to three in the turnover department, the Saints nearly blew that game after holding a 16-point lead. While Brady was sacked three times to tie a season-high, he was only pressured five times total on 43 plays (11.6%) and the Saints allowed a lot of yards after the catch despite Antonio Brown being inactive and Rob Gronkowski (back) leaving after six snaps.
The Saints could not capitalize on the big division win with Siemian taking over as the starter. Siemian struggled, the turnover margin went the other way, and running back Alvin Kamara missed four games as well to go along with an offense that has not had leading receiver Michael Thomas all season. The Saints lost five games in a row before finally getting Kamara back and a win over the lowly Jets.
Now we will see if the Saints, with the unique Taysom Hill at quarterback, can do anything to stop a hot Tampa Bay team that has won four in a row.
Can Taysom Hill Learn From Josh Allen?
The Saints are in for a tough one here as the Buccaneers have scored at least 30 points in the last four games since Gronkowski returned. He’s looking like the old Gronk too with 78.5 yards per game in the last month.
While the Saints usually keep Mike Evans in check, Chris Godwin has had at least 10 catches and 105 yards in the last two weeks, and he had 140 yards and a touchdown in Week 8 in New Orleans. The Saints are going to see a stronger offense on Sunday than they did the first time.
The Saints only have one more takeaway in the last six games combined than they had against Brady in Week 8, and that three-turnover day is unlikely to happen again. The Buccaneers feasted on New Orleans turnovers for short fields in last year’s playoff win, so Taysom Hill will have to protect the ball in this one.
The Saints had no turnovers against the Jets after Hill threw four picks against Dallas, but the Jets are also 31st in takeaways. Tampa Bay’s 25 takeaways rank 5th in the league.
This New Orleans offense is limited, but one thing Hill can do really well is run the ball, either by design or scrambles. He is similar to Buffalo’s Josh Allen in that regard. On Sunday, Allen helped the Bills rally back from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter to nearly winning in regulation before losing 33-27 in overtime. Allen was not efficient as a passer (308 yards on 54 attempts), but he rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown.
One advantage the Saints have over the Bills is that Kamara can do damage on the ground in addition to Hill’s runs. However, despite the numbers last week, Tampa Bay has been one of the hardest defenses to run on the last few seasons. Kamara only averages 59.6 rushing yards per game against Tampa Bay in his career with the 85 yards in the playoff loss last January being his biggest rushing game.
But the Saints did not have a good passing game or protect the ball well that day. They are not likely to have a good one here again with the limitations at receiver and Hill’s injured finger limiting his ability to throw. But if he goes full YOLO mode with runs, the Saints may have a shot at hanging around in this one.
Since 2011, a double-digit underdog in a division game this late in the season is 4-48 SU and 23-28-1 ATS. Since 2020, the Buccaneers are 8-4 ATS as a home favorite. Tampa Bay should win this game, but the allure of a backdoor cover is strong in this one, especially since the Saints still managed to score at least 21 points in four of their last six games.
But while I like Hill trying to scramble in this one, I do not trust him to do it effectively with Kamara likely being held in check by the defense.
After nearly blowing that big lead to Buffalo last week, look for the Buccaneers to finish stronger this time and get the cover to end your NFL picks.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.