New Orleans have a recipe to cover this NFL Week 8 broadcast
|Time||4:25 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Be up to date NFL odds here.|
Jameis Winston against his old team. Tampa returns to New Orleans for the first time since a big playoff victory. Marshon Lattimore vs. Mike Evans. The Bucs are looking for their first NFC South title since 2007.
Pick your favorite story for this game. Either way, it will be a hard-hitting physical clash filled with energy. New Orleans fans have only had one home game this season, and you can bet a late afternoon visit from Tom Brady will bring out the best in that crowd.
Can the Saints cause upheaval at home? Or will the Bucs enter New Orleans and strengthen their grip on the NFC South title? The Saints might not win right away, but they have the ingredients to keep that close and give themselves a chance.
Click on the arrow to expand injury reports
Bucs vs. Saints Injury Report
- WR Antonio Brown (ankle): Outside
- LB Jason Pierre-Paul (Shoulder): Questionable
- LB Lavonte David (ankle): debatable
- CB Dee Delaney (ankle): debatable
- CB Richard Sherman (hamstrings): Questionable
- TE Rob Gronkowski (Ribs): Questionable
Wounds of the saints
- RB Dwayne Washington (neck): Outside
- QB Taysom Hill (concussion): Outside
- G Andrus Peat (Pec): Outside
- FROM Payton Turner (Veal): Outside
- WR Deonte Harris (Tendon): debatable
Match between Bucs and Saints
|Bucs offense||Rank DVOA||Defense of the saints|
|Bucs Defense||Rank DVOA||Offense of the saints|
|The Football Outsiders DVOA measures effectiveness by comparing a team’s success in each game to the league average based on the situation and the opponent.|
Bucs’ offense has met expectations so far
We don’t need to spend a lot of time in Tampa Bay as this team is largely in line with preseason expectations.
At 6-1, the Buccaneers are very much at stake for the No. 1 seed of the NFC. Other than that trip to New Orleans and a subsequent game against Buffalo, I don’t have Tampa Bay with less than a 65% chance of winning in the remaining games.
This team should finish with 13-14 wins.
The offense had to be an elite unit with three fantastic wide receivers, a top offensive line, and the best quarterback ever. Sure enough, Tom Brady is playing at an MVP level – he’s second in Expected Points Added (EPA) by dropback, behind only Matthew Stafford. And Brady did it without two of his primary targets: Rob Gronkowski, Brady’s favorite target in the red zone, and Antonio Brown.
Good thing Tampa still has Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
What goes under the radar is how efficient Tampa has been on the ground. The Bucs are No. 1 in EPA / run and among the top six in DVOA and success rate. It helps to have an elite offensive line at every position; the five starting OL guys currently have PFF scores of at least 70.
The ability to throw the ball gives more bite to the Bucs’ passing game and helps them clear the clock with a late-game lead.
How good is the Bucs defense?
Tampa Bay’s defense is hard to read. And the injuries in high school didn’t do us a favor.
The Bucs are missing Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting, and now substitutes Dee Delaney and Richard Sherman are questionable for Sunday, leaving only Jamel Dean as sole representative of their opening night starters.
The result? A passing defense that is 21st for fall hit rate and, even more shockingly, 24th for overall hit rate. About 50% of the opposing games are “successful”, which means that they gain a probability of winning on that game.
That’s a far cry from the unit that finished fourth in success rate and 11th in EPA / play last season.
More worrying is the lack of pressure the Bucs are under.
They rank 17th for pressure rate and bottom five for precipitation rate despite a 39.4% blitz rate, the best in the league. 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 secondary school players has surely contributed to this; the Bucs allow the third lowest target depth, as opponents are short on them. The Cowboys proved the model worked against the Bucs in Week 1.
The run defense is still extremely strong, thanks to DT Vita Vea from all over the world, but the pass defense is a major question mark right now and is limiting the advantage of that defense.
Saints deserve more credit
No team has seen more difficult circumstances this season than the New Orleans Saints.
Even before the start of the season, Hurricane Ida hit New Orleans and forced the Saints to relocate their training facilities. The team were training in Dallas, staying in hotels away from home, and had even moved a home game from the Dome. To make matters worse, four of the Saints’ first six games were on the road; it was a team that had more trips than any other team in the NFL.
To make matters more difficult, the Saints had an outbreak of COVID-19 among their coaching staff ahead of their Week 2 game against the Panthers, with some also missing the following week. New Orleans also effectively missed half of its defensive starters at this spot in Week 2.
Any team that has to face such difficult circumstances is at a huge disadvantage. But Sean Payton and Co. have consistently delivered this season, starting 4-2 with elite defense and an offense that could be better than expected.
Winston has done an admirable performance this season. New Orleans doesn’t have the best weapons harvest in the passing game, but it still ranks 12th in EPA / dropback. It’s shockingly ahead of Dak Prescott and Lamar Jackson; I’d much prefer to 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 have won that Divisional Round playoff game without four turnovers (including a horrific Jared Cook fumble).
Winston isn’t Drew Brees, and Michael Thomas isn’t here, but it’s a good Saints offensive coaching team that has made the most of that staff this season. They have the offensive line to hold on against the Bucs passer, and Payton, as the play caller, should be able to put his pieces in position to pull it off.
To cover that number, New Orleans doesn’t need to light up the scoreboard, it just needs to be competitive.
New Orleans defense receives reinforcements
The statistical profile of this defense is very strong. There were questionable performances – the Week 4 performance against the Giants comes to mind – but given the staff they lacked, this unit performed very well.
Now things are improving with the players this unit collects.
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 in putting pressure on Tom Brady. The Saints are above average when it comes to pressure, but they have only eight presses from inside.
New Orleans recovered talented DE Marcus Davenport from injury last week against the Seahawks, and he immediately made a major impact with six pushes. His very presence will help Cameron Jordan across the line.
The linebacker corps, which was a question mark before the season, has been extremely strong. DeMario Davis has been excellent, and rookie Pete Werner has done it admirably for injured Kwon Alexander. Oh, and Alexander came back last week.
The secondary played well as a unit, and we can once again watch Marshon Lattimore do his thing against Mike Evans. This leaves the rest of the unit to stop Chris Godwin and the rest of the Bucs’ WR corps. Saints have a great pair of safeties that prevent big plays
Choices Saints vs. Bucs
Despite being considered the best of all time, the markets have always underestimated Brady, who has hedged spreads at a rate of 58% during his career.
Betting against Brady can be extremely painful when he walks the field to rip your heart out with a gun. But the task ahead this week is tough 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 to reach Brady. Lattimore’s presence in high school, coupled with Brown’s absence, gives the Saints a chance to limit the Bucs’ offensive production.
Another nugget: Payton is 11-3 ATS and 9-5 as a home underdog. There’s a reason New Orleans has only been a domestic dog 14 times. While the home court advantage has waned in the NFL this season, that New Orleans home crowd will be particularly boisterous with three extra hours on Bourbon Street before the game.
And, if I were to bet, I guess Payton and the Saints didn’t spend their week off preparing for Geno Smith and the Seahawks – they probably spent it studying Brady and the Buccaneers.
I’ll shoot the dog here.
To take: Saints +4.5 | Bet on: +4
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