The New Orleans Saints will try to avenge one loss and bounce back from another when they visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 14. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 9, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Fans in certain markets can watch the game on Fox.
Based on the Week 14 NFL odds, the Saints are 8-point favorites on the road. The over/under is set at 56 points.
A week ago, the Saints were stunned by the Cowboys 13-10, putting an end to their 10-game winning streak. It was a rare off day for the New Orleans offense, who was held under 30 points for just the second time this season. On the bright side, the Saints are still in full control of the NFC South, thanks in part to Carolina’s recent collapse. With a win on Sunday, the Saints will officially lock up the division title.
New Orleans is also close to locking up a first-round playoff bye. However, the Saints still have some work to do if they want to secure home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. With last week’s loss, they have fallen a game behind the Rams for the best record in the conference. New Orleans owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Rams, but they’ll have to win out and hope the Rams lose at least once during the final four weeks of the season in order to earn the top seed.
As for the Bucs, they appear to be creeping back into the playoff picture. Back-to-back home wins over the 49ers and Panthers have brought Tampa Bay to 5-7 on the season. They are just a game and a half behind the Vikings for the final wild-card spot in the NFC. Of course, there are three 6-6 teams the Buccaneers will have to jump over to get to that spot. But amidst such a topsy-turvy season that has put Dirk Koetter on the hot seat, Tampa Bay is at least in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Naturally, they have little margin for error coming down the stretch. The Bucs also face a brutal schedule the final four weeks of the season. After hosting the Saints this weekend, Tampa Bay has back-to-back road games with the Ravens and Cowboys before finishing up the season at home against Atlanta. Knowing that they need to win all four games to have a chance, that’s a steep hill for the Buccaneers to climb.
Of course, the Bucs pulled off a surprising win over New Orleans in Week 1. However, that was four or five quarterback changes ago for Tampa Bay and before New Orleans rattled off 10 straight wins. Both teams have changed a lot since Week 1, so what happens in the rematch is anybody’s guess.
I know it was just one loss, but the luster is off the Saints a little bit after managing just 10 points in a loss to Dallas. Meanwhile, the Bucs have a little momentum and confidence after back-to-back wins. Even if the Saints can bounce back quickly, I’m not a huge fan of giving a home team eight points against a division rival. I don’t see Tampa Bay rolling over at home, so I’ll lean toward the Buccaneers to at least beat the 8-point spread.
It took a while to figure things out, but the Tampa Bay offense finally looks like they’re playing at or near their full potential. In his last two games since becoming the starter again, Jameis Winston is completing over 70% of his passes, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s found a way to use the incredible weapons around him without turning the ball over. We know that Tampa’s skill players are outstanding, so if Winston can continue to play turnover-free football, the Bucs should put some points on the board.
On the other side of the ball, the Tampa Bay defense is also playing much better lately. We can overlook giving up just nine points to Nick Mullens and the 49ers a couple of weeks ago. But the Buccaneers had four sacks and four interceptions against Cam Newton and the Panthers last week. Even against a struggling Carolina team, giving up just 17 points an impressive feat. I don’t want to overreact too much, but I feel slightly better about the Bucs going up against Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense.
Keep in mind that Brees and the Saints actually looked human last week. Going from virtually unstoppable to gaining just 176 total yards is a huge drop-off. I’m inclined to believe that last week’s loss to the Cowboys is an aberration. However, the Saints have lost their last two trips to Raymond James Stadium and have been held to 24 points or less in their last five games in Tampa. Clearly, Brees and company are rarely at their best when visiting the Bucs.
To be honest, I would be surprised if the Saints lost this game. But they haven’t blown out too many teams on the road this year. The Buccaneers also have a lot of confidence and can feel themselves sneaking back into the playoff picture. I like Tampa Bay to give the Saints a game and keep the final score within the 8-point spread.