Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints – NFL, Divisional Round (January 17, 2021)

By Dean McHugh in NFL
| January 15, 2021 8:50 am PDT

Only one win separated these two teams in the regular season, and we can expect this game to be as close as that. Both of these two teams had arguably the easiest first-round games dispatching both Washington and Chicago.

The Saints have recently owned this fixture, winning the last five games in a row against the Buccaneers, which includes destroying them 3-38 this season. That game was over at halftime as the Saints led 0-31 and cruised the victory in the end. It was also the second time that they beat the Buccaneers this season, having won on the opening day against them too.

Over the last ten head to head games between these two, the Saints have averaged nine more points per game than the Bucs. This is mostly down to Tampa Bay folding under the Saint’s defense pressure in recent years as they have only completed 58% of their passes.

Buccaneers vs. Saints Odds

Buccaneers +3-110
Saints -3-110
Buccaneers To Win+150
Saints To Win-165
Over 51.5 Points-110
Under 51.5 Points-110

The lead on the Bucs has been cut in half a point since betting opened, and if things continue, it could be cut another half a point before this game kicks off. The points total, however, has increased by a full point as the bookmakers adjust their prices.

Buccaneers Analysis

The Buccaneers finished the regular season on a high, winning their last four games in a row. If it wasn’t for a small blip before that where they lost back to back games against the Rams and the Chiefs, it could be them that had home-field advantage in this one.

They finished the regular season with the best away record in the NFC, winning six of their eight road trips. They won their last five games on the road, and they brought that form into the playoffs against Washington.

Despite leading the whole way in that game, they didn’t have things all their way, and it was touch and go before Succop’s field goal in the 12th minute of the fourth quarter sealed the win 23-31. The Bucs can be forgiven for looking nervous in that game, as it was their first playoff win since 2002!

Here are the latest betting trends for Tampa Bay:

Bet Type Trend
ATS The Bucs are 4-2 in their last six games.
ATS They have lost the last five games in a row against the Saints.
Total Of the last five games they have played against the Saints in New Orleans, four of them have gone over the betting total.
Total Against teams from the NFC, 15 of the last 20 games have gone over the points total.
ATS They have only won one of the last five games played in January.

The Bucs have a great offense and although they predictably always throw the ball, where it lands is anyone guess, and teams are still trying to figure that out now.

If they are to win this game, they will need to change one thing: the amount of time that their offense spends on the field. They currently average just 29 minutes per game, and coming up against the Saints, whose offense spends more time than any other team, will be a challenge. They will need to wrestle some of that control away from the Saints, which won’t be easy. They could slow the game down, but that would be playing into the Saint’s hands. So perhaps shorter, faster plays will be the key to winning this one.

One piece of encouragement for the Bucs will be knowing they have the highest-scoring offense on the road this season, averaging 32 points per game. If they were to score that against the Saints in this one, it would be hard to see them losing.

Their defense has been good this season, and what is even more crucial, it has been exceptional against teams that like to run the ball, just as the Saints do. It hasn’t done so well against passing teams, allowing their opponents a passing completion rate of just under 70%. The Saints have been known to occasionally mix things up, so this could be their key to winning the game.

They haven’t made many sacks this season, but you wouldn’t expect this to be a problem against a running team like the Saints.

As much as I hate to say it as it’s very cliché, this game could come down to Tom Brady. We know the Bucs aren’t going to change the way they play, so a lot will rely on their star quarterback. Here Brady talks about the upcoming game and how continuity could be the key to success.

And of course, if Brady is to have that continuity he speaks about, he will need support from his teammates, just as he did from Leonard Fournette in the first round of the playoffs, as he saved his best game of the season for the big occasion.

Much will also depend on the fitness of wide receiver Mike Evans, as he struggles to recover from his recent injury.

They are also sweating on the fitness of McCoy, Pierre-Paul, Ledbetter, and Jones.

Saints Analysis

The Saints only lost four games all season, which was a couple of back to back defeats both early on in the campaign and towards the end. It’s been suggested that those two blips came as a lack of focus at the time. However, the first time they lost back to back games this season, they went in to win the next nine, which of they did that this time would make them the Super Bowl champions.

At home, the Saints finished the regular season with an identical record as Tamps Bays road one, win six wins and two defeats. The only two teams to beat them at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome where the AFC and NFC Conference leaders, the Chiefs and the Packers.

Their route to this stage of the playoffs was very comfortable as they beat the Bears 21-9 in the opening round.

Here are the latest betting trends for New Orleans:

Bet Type Trend
ATS The Saints have only lost one of their last ten games.
Total Seven of their last ten games have gone under the betting total.
Total Only two of the last seven games have gone under the points total between these two teams.
ATS They have won seven of their last eight games against the opposition in the NFC’s South Division.
Total Their last five games in January have all gone under the betting total.

The Saints have a well drilled, methodical offense, which breaks opponents down bit by bit. However, they can mix things up as although they prefer to run the ball, they are going at throwing it around as they finished the regular season with the highest passing success rate in the NFL.

They have a very well rounded defense that can cope with both passing and rushing opponents. This is reflected in them making the second-highest number of tackles this year. You could say that they would have liked to have made more forced fumbles than they have to date, but this hasn’t hindered them up until now.

However, perhaps their most significant strength is their control and game management. Their not particularly the best at anything, but they do everything well, and most importantly, they know how to win football games.

If there was to be one chink in their armor, then I guess you could say they haven’t always been the best defense against passing teams at home this season. This is highlighted by the fact that they conceded 32 points against the Chiefs and 37 against the Packers.

However, they have made the most interceptions in the NFL this season, so it won’t all be plane sailing for Tom Brady. They have also restricted their opponents to a passing completion rate of just 59%. So it appears that when they do get things wrong, it’s in the wrong areas of the field.

Running back Alvin Kamara had an excellent game against the Bears, and he could figure closely here too, as he looks to glide past the Buccaneers defense.

Buccaneers vs. Saints Betting Pick

Pick
  • Over 51.5
    -110

This game has the potential to be a cracker, and I predict that it will be and will also be the game of the round. I am close to siding with the Saints as they have a more adaptable way of playing. However, it is a concern how poorly their defense did against the Chiefs and the Packers, which holds me back from picking them. I’m going to select over the points total as in those games against the Chiefs and the Packers, the Saints responded well and fought fire with fire going head to head with them offensively. I see this game playing out similarly.

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