The Week 15 NFL schedule features a primetime showdown in the NFC South between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints have won six straight regular-season meetings between these teams, including a 36-27 win earlier this season. However, the Bucs are listed as 11-point favorites at home, with the over/under set at 46.5 points.
The injury-riddled Saints finally ended their five-game losing streak last week with a convincing 30-9 victory over the Jets. That win actually puts them just one game out of a playoff spot. Of course, they have to jump over five 6-7 teams to get but have a manageable schedule down the stretch if they can steal a win in Tampa.
Meanwhile, the Bucs just need one more win to clinch the NFC South title outright. At the same time, Tampa is more concerned with trying to earn the top seed in the NFC playoffs. The Bucs are tied with the Packers and Cardinals for the best record in the conference, so they will feel like they need to keep winning.
Top of the Class
Tom Brady might be moving toward another MVP award, as the Bucs lead the league in both passing yards and points scored. Tampa has scored at least 30 points in five straight games and 8 of 13 games on the season.
In addition to the embarrassment of riches that Brady has at wide receiver, Leonard Fournette has rushed for 100 yards or more twice in his last three games, adding balance to the Tampa offense.
On the other hand, the Tampa defense ranks in the bottom half of the league in points allowed. The Buccaneers have allowed an average of 25 points per game over their last six points, failing to hang onto a big lead against the Bills last week despite winning in overtime.
The injury bug has hit the Tampa secondary, although the pass rush remains strong, and the Bucs have forced 25 takeaways in 13 games this season.
Top of the Hill
Despite a disastrous start against the Cowboys two weeks ago, Taysom Hill looked far more comfortable against the Jets last week, completing 15 of his 21 passes.
It’s worth remembering that Hill isn’t an ideal pocket passer, but the Saints will use his legs as much as possible. Plus, Alvin Kamara is finally back from injury, gaining 145 yards on 31 touches last week, so he and Hill could make a formidable tandem.
On the other side of the ball, the New Orleans defense knows that it can hang with Brady and company after forcing three turnovers in their earlier matchup.
Granted, the Saints have also been hit by injuries on defense, most notably Marcus Davenport and Cameron Jordan. But the Saints still have exceptional talent in the secondary, making them uniquely qualified to match up against Tampa’s receivers.
Always a Fight
The spread of 11 points could be a little much for a fierce rivalry game, especially since the Saints have had Tampa’s number in the regular season lately.
The New Orleans defense should put up some resistance while Hill and Kamara could prove tricky for the Bucs. Bet on the Saints to beat the 11-point spread and keep this game close.
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