New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Date and Time: Sunday, December 31, 2017, 4:25 p.m. ET
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Opening NFL Odds: Saints -7
Buccaneers vs. Saints TV Coverage: FOX
Before getting into New Orleans' playoff position, let's remember that Jameis Winston is a freaking nutcase at the moment. He's had a frustrating season complete with one wild game already against the Saints that ended in Mike Evans getting suspended for getting into a fight for protecting his quarterback. Then as last week's loss to Carolina wound down, Winston lost his mind and literally went after any official he could get close to.
In fairness to Winston, he hasn't played as poorly this season as you would think. He's thrown eight touchdowns in his last four games and has a quarterback rating of 113 in that span. Winston has his highest completion percentage, highest yards per pass attempt and pass completion, best TD/INT ratio and highest quarterback rating of his three-year career, and none of those stats are even close.
That said, Winston only has two wins as a starting quarterback this year, and they came back in Weeks 2 and 4.
New Orleans took care of business last week against the Falcons and clinched a playoff spot in the process. Thanks to Tampa's collapse against the Panthers, the Saints didn't clinch the NFC South quite yet, but at least they're in the playoffs and should finish the job this week. A win, and the Saints will host either the Seahawks, Falcons or Panthers next week at the Superdome. A loss, and Carolina will still need to beat Atlanta for New Orleans to drop into a Wild Card slot.
Rare is the team that finishes the season ranked in the top-5 in the league in every major offensive category, but the Saints could do just that. They're averaging 395.7 yards, 263.9 passing yards, 131.9 rushing yards and 28.3 points per game, all numbers that are in the top-5 in the NFL at the moment.
Betting Trends of Note
The Saints not only have the better team in this game by a country mile, but they also have history on their side. They've won six of the last eight meetings between these two teams at Raymond James Stadium, though they've gone just 4-4 ATS in those duels.
The road has had times when it has been kind to the Saints this year, but of late, they haven't been good outside of the Superdome. New Orleans was beaten by the Falcons in Atlanta and the Rams in Los Angeles since thrashing Buffalo 47-10 in Orchard Park.
It's worth remembering that the Saints were one score away from covering both games. Had they pulled that off, they'd be on a six-game cover streak on the road dating all the way back to Week 1 loss to a Minnesota team we had no idea would be this good at the start of the season.
The under is 8-1 in the meetings between these teams in the Sunshine State since 2008.
Saints vs. Buccaneers Free Picks
If Alvin Kamara can get to 74 rushing yards, both he and Mark Ingram will be over 1,500 all-purpose yards for the season. It's remarkable to think that the Saints will end up having a 4,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher, two running backs who each had 1,500 all-purpose yards and a 1,200-yard receiver (assuming Michael Thomas has at least 49 yards against the Bucs as well).
With all this offensive firepower on the field, we just can't see the Buccaneers keeping up. Dirk Koetter could be as good as gone, and Winston might not even be allowed to see the field in this game after last week's tirade. Simply put, things aren't going well at 1 Buc Place, and New Orleans should stomp on the Buccaneers' throats one last time with a double-digit victory that secures the NFC South title.
NFL ATS Pick: Saints -7 at BookMaker.eu
NFL Score Prediction: Saints 31, Buccaneers 20