|3 TB (-105) @ Fanduel|
10* Big Ticket: Take Tampa Bay (#307)
My clients and I cashed a winning bet AGAINST the Bucs last week and we cashed another winning bet ON the Saints. Yet this week, I’m loading up on Tampa plus the points in New Orleans! What gives?
Let me start with this – we were lucky to win either bet. I was only right about half the handicap (Washington was bet ON, Chicago was bet AGAINST) in both games. Here’s what I wrote about the Bucs last week:
“Tom Brady’s Kryptonite is a defensive line that can create pressure without blitzing. Washington has a top five pressure rate, which has resulted in a bevy of forced turnovers. Montez Sweat and Chase Young are the most dangerous defensive end duo in the league right now. Brady has been ‘off and on’ for extended stretches this season and I’m not convinced this is a good matchup for him.”
That handicap was dead wrong. The Bucs offensive line was able to control the line of scrimmage throughout. Yes, Brady took three sacks, but for most of the day, his uniform was clean thanks to that strong OL play. The only reason my clients & I covered the spread was due to red zone failures; only one TD in five tries for Tampa, not a long term problem for this Super Bowl contender. And it’s worth noting how comfortable Brady was, resulting in a bevy of big plays. FIVE different Bucs receivers caught a pass for longer than 20 yards and Gronk didn’t even make a catch. I do NOT expect the Saints defensive front to control the flow here – not with Tampa’s offensive line playing as well as they have all year right now!
Here’s what I wrote about the Saints – more incorrect analysis: “The Saints have played the last month without three of their top four wide receivers, including gamebreaker Michael Thomas. Their entire running back room was on COVID restriction last week, ruled out at Carolina. I expect just about everybody from both groups to play here, giving this offense an element of explosiveness they’ve lacked down the stretch.”
Last week’s game against the Bears made it very clear. The Saints late season offensive weaknesses were not solely the result of the injuries to their receiving corps. New Orleans is not getting elite level offensive line play right now. And Drew Brees clearly doesn’t have the arm strength at this stage of the season – and his career – to stretch the defense with downfield shots. Everything is dink & dunk; not an offense with much big play ability at this stage of the campaign, nor an offense with the capacity to erase deficits if they fall behind.
I’m well aware that the Saints defense gave Tom Brady trouble in both previous meetings this season. On opening day, Brady’s pick six was a real turning point, as was Tampa’s -3 turnover margin. That said, the Saints offense only gained 4.1 yards per play in that game. The rematch was just ‘one of those games’ where everything went wrong for Tampa and right for New Orleans from the opening kick – the worst half of football Tampa played all year.
The Bucs are a different team now than they were in Week 9 – they’ve gotten steadily better (as expected for a team that made major transitions last offseason without any benefit of preseason contests). The Bucs haven’t lost a game by more than a field goal since. Brady is NOT out of steam by January, like we saw last year and we’re seeing with Drew Brees now. Meanwhile, the Saints haven’t beaten a single team that’s Over .500 since that win over the Bucs, and we’ve seen New Orleans – repeatedly in the Sean Payton era – blow playoff games like this one at home. Prior to last week, their last home win & cover in the playoffs came in 2011 against the Lions. I’m not expecting them to get another one here. Be sure to sprinkle at least a little something on the Bucs moneyline in a game I expect them to win. Big Ticket: Take the Buccaneers.