Saints vs. Bucs Odds, Picks, Predictions: New Orleans Has Recipe To Cover This NFL Week 8 Spread
Steph Chambers/Getty Images. Pictured: Saints QB Jameis Winston
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|Time||4:25 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.|
Jameis Winston against his old team. Tampa returning to New Orleans for the first time since a big playoff win. Marshon Lattimore versus Mike Evans. The Bucs looking for their first NFC South title since 2007.
Pick your favorite narrative for this game. Whatever it is, it will be a hard-hitting, physical matchup filled with energy. New Orleans fans have had only one home game this season, and you can bet that a late-afternoon visit from Tom Brady will bring out the best in that crowd.
Can the Saints spring the upset at home? Or will the Bucs march into New Orleans and solidify their grasp on the NFC South title? The Saints may not win outright, but they have the ingredients to keep this close and give themselves a chance.
Click the arrow to expand injury reports
Bucs vs. Saints Injury Report
- WR Antonio Brown (Ankle): Out
- LB Jason Pierre-Paul (Shoulder): Questionable
- LB Lavonte David (Ankle): Questionable
- CB Dee Delaney (Ankle): Questionable
- CB Richard Sherman (Hamstring): Questionable
- TE Rob Gronkowski (Ribs): Questionable
- RB Dwayne Washington (Neck): Out
- QB Taysom Hill (Concussion): Out
- G Andrus Peat (Pec): Out
- DE Payton Turner (Calf): Out
- WR Deonte Harris (Hamstring): Questionable
Bucs vs. Saints Matchup
|Bucs Offense||DVOA Rank||Saints Defense|
|Bucs Defense||DVOA Rank||Saints Offense|
|Football Outsiders’ DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team’s success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.|
Bucs Offense Has Met Expectations So Far
We don’t need to spend much time on Tampa Bay, as this team is performing largely in line with preseason expectations.
At 6-1, the Buccaneers are very much in play for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Outside of this trip to New Orleans and a later game against Buffalo, I don’t have Tampa Bay with less than a 65% win probability in any remaining games.
This team should end up with 13-14 wins.
The offense was expected to be an elite unit with three fantastic wide receivers, a top-flight offensive line and the best quarterback to ever do it. Sure enough, Tom Brady is playing at an MVP level — he’s second in Expected Points Added (EPA) per dropback, behind only Matthew Stafford. And Brady has been doing that without two of his top targets: Rob Gronkowski, Brady’s favorite red-zone target, and Antonio Brown.
It’s a good thing Tampa still has Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
What is flying under the radar is just how effective Tampa has been on the ground. The Bucs are No. 1 in EPA/run, and top-six in both rush DVOA and rushing success rate. It helps to have an offensive line that’s elite at every position; all five guys on the starting OL currently have PFF grades of at least 70.
The ability to run the ball gives the Bucs’ play-action passing game more bite and helps them drain clock with a lead late in a game.
Just How Good Is the Bucs Defense?
Tampa Bay’s defense is a tough one to read. And the injuries to the secondary haven’t done us any favors.
The Bucs are missing Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting, and now backups Dee Delaney and Richard Sherman are questionable for Sunday, leaving only Jamel Dean as the lone representative of their opening night starters.
The result? A passing defense that’s 21st in dropback success rate and, even more shockingly, 24th in overall success rate. About 50% of opponent plays are “successful,” which means they gain win probability on that play.
This is a far cry from the unit that finished fourth in success rate and 11th in EPA/play last season.
More worrisome is the lack of pressure that the Bucs are getting.
They rank 17th in pressure rate and bottom-five in hurry rate despite a league-leading 39.4% blitz rate. A Todd Bowles defense will always be aggressive when it comes to blitzing, but it hasn’t done much for this unit. The lack of competent players in the secondary has surely contributed to that; the Bucs allow the third-lowest depth of target against, as opponents are short passing on them. The Cowboys proved that model works against the Bucs in Week 1.
The run defense is still extremely strong, thanks to all-world DT Vita Vea, but the pass defense is a major question mark right now and limits the upside of this defense.
The Saints Deserve More Credit
No team has had a more difficult set of circumstances this season than the New Orleans Saints.
Before the season even got underway, Hurricane Ida battered New Orleans and forced the Saints to move their practice facilities. The team was practicing in Dallas, staying in hotels away from home, and even had a home game moved from the Dome. To make matters worse, four of the Saints’ first six games were on the road; this was a team that had more travel than any other team in the NFL.
To make matters more difficult, the Saints had a COVID-19 outbreak among their coaching staff before their Week 2 game against the Panthers, with some also missing the following week. New Orleans was also missing effectively half of its defensive starters in that Week 2 spot.
Any team that has to face circumstances that difficult is at an immense disadvantage. But Sean Payton and Co. have still been up to the task this season, starting 4-2 with an elite defense and an offense that may be better than people expected.
Winston has performed admirably this season. New Orleans doesn’t have the best crop of weapons in the passing game, but he still ranks 12th in EPA/dropback. That is shockingly ahead of Dak Prescott and Lamar Jackson; I would much rather have either of those QBs, but Winston has played well this season.
New Orleans used the dink and dunk formula against Tampa last season to perfection, and the Saints would’ve won that Divisional Round playoff game had it not been for four turnovers (including a horrible Jared Cook fumble).
Winston is no Drew Brees, and Michael Thomas isn’t there, but this is a good Saints offensive coaching staff that has gotten the most out of this personnel this season. They have the offensive line to hold up against the Bucs’ pass rushers, and Payton as a play caller should be able to put his pieces in a position to succeed.
To cover this number, New Orleans doesn’t need to light the scoreboard up — it just needs to be competitive.
New Orleans’ Defense is Getting Reinforcements
The statistical profile of this defense is very strong. There have been some iffy performances — the Week 4 showing against the Giants comes to mind — but given the personnel they’ve been missing, this unit has performed very well.
Now, things are looking up with the players this unit is getting back.
DT David Onyemata returns this week from a six-game suspension, and his presence in the middle of that defensive line will go a long way toward getting pressure on Tom Brady. The Saints are above-average at getting pressure, but they have just eight pressures from the interior.
New Orleans got uber-talented DE Marcus Davenport back from injury last week against the Seahawks, and he made a major impact right away with six pressures. His presence alone will help Cameron Jordan on the other side of the line.
The linebacking corps, which was a question mark before the season, has been extremely solid. DeMario Davis has been excellent, and rookie Pete Werner has filled it admirably for the injured Kwon Alexander. Oh, and Alexander returned last week.
The secondary has played well as a unit, and we get to watch Marshon Lattimore do his thing against Mike Evans again. That leaves the rest of the unit to stop Chris Godwin and the rest of the Bucs’ WR corps. The Saints have an excellent pair of safeties who prevent big plays
Saints vs. Bucs Picks
Despite being considered the best of all time, markets have consistently underpriced Brady, who has covered spreads at a 58% clip in his career.
Betting against Brady can be extremely painful when he marches down the field to rip your heart out at the gun. But the task at hand this week is a difficult one for the Buccaneers.
This is a legitimately elite defense in New Orleans that has skill at all three levels. The Saints have the best chance of any team so far at getting to Brady. Lattimore’s presence in the secondary, coupled with Brown’s absence, gives the Saints a chance to limit the Bucs’ offensive output.
One other nugget: Payton is 11-3 against the spread (ATS) and 9-5 outright as a home underdog. There’s a reason New Orleans has been a home dog only 14 times. While home-field advantage has been down across the NFL this season, this New Orleans home crowd will be especially rowdy with three extra hours on Bourbon Street pre-game.
And, if I had to bet, I’d guess that Payton and the Saints didn’t spend their bye week preparing for Geno Smith and the Seahawks — it was likely spent studying Brady and the Buccaneers.
I’ll take a shot on the dog here.
Pick: Saints +4.5 | Bet to: +4
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