For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this is a season where things spiraled out of control, and most of the talk recently has been about pending exit of their head coach and the possible hiring of the guy who took them to their only Super Bowl victory. But they have also played a lot of close games lately, so we have not given up entirely. On Sunday, the Bucs close out the season with a game against the New Orleans Saints that will take place at 4:25 PM ET at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Fox Network will televise this one on a regional basis, VietBet customers have the opportunity to get reduced juice before the game, and Live Betting Ultra enables real-time wagering after kickoff.
The Buccaneers won two of their first three games, but almost nothing has gone right since. Last year they got very close to a playoff spot and this campaign has been a series of near misses, as the team has lost seven games by six points or less. In fact, over the last four weeks they have been outscored by just nine points in regulation. No one really wants to hear about that; least of all head coach Dirk Koetter, because the fact is, they lost five straight games and come into this one with a record of 4-11 straight-up (5-9-1 ATS). .
The Saints have the opportunity to clinch the NFC South title with a victory here. They are 11-4 straight-up and 8-7 against the spread. Naturally, Drew Brees is part of the story, as he has completed almost 72% passes (which would break the accuracy mark of Sam Bradford, who broke Brees’ record last year) and been sacked 18 times in fifteen games. At the same time, the real difference in this team involves what they have been able to do on the ground and what they have been able to do to stop people. By now, most observers are familiar with the tandem of Mark Ingram (1009 yards, five yards per carry) and Alvin Kamara (6.2 yards per carry, 1426 yards from scrimmage), and Kamara in particular burned Tampa Bay the first time around, with 68 yards on the ground and 84 in receptions as the Saints chalked up a 30-10 victory.
In the odds at VietBet upon which we will make our NFL picks for Sunday, the Saints are the favorites on the road:
New Orleans Saints -7 (+100)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +7 (-120)
Over 50.5 points -110
Under 50.5 points -110
The result of this game might depend a lot on what the mood is around the Tampa Bay clubhouse at the moment. Head coach Dirk Koetter has called the rumors about his possible firing a “distraction,” and insists that he has not talked to management about his future. That wouldn’t be all that unusual, but he might very well have that discussion on Monday. If you have been following this story, you know that Jon Gruden’s name is a hot topic around the area as a possible replacement.
Koetter claims he is not lost control of the locker room, but some bizarre things went on last Sunday, as the Bucs lost a 22-19 decision to the Carolina Panthers. For example, there was a screaming match in the locker room after the game, as defensive lineman Chris Baker, who committed a penalty of encroachment that helped enable the Panthers to win the game on a Cam Newton touchdown, became the target. Jameis Winston, the quarterback, was one of those people unloading on Baker; Winston completed 21 of 27 passes for 367 yards, but was sacked six times and lost three fumbles. When he was finally strip-sacked by Julius Peppers near the end, he went into a tantrum of sorts.
VietBet patrons might recall that when these teams last met, Winston hurt his shoulder and Mike Evans incurred a one-game suspension for taking a cheap shot at rookie corner Marshon Lattimore, so there is some bad blood here. Obviously New Orleans is motivated, as they could host at least one playoff game if they win. And fundamentally, they’ve got a lot more going on than the Bucs, who have yielded 48% on third down and put very little pressure on opposing QB’s (just 20 sacks). But these last four games have offered at least some indication that Tampa Bay hasn’t lied down and rolled over, so we would not be shocked if they could give the Saints a 60-minute battle, especially those players who like Koetter and want to save their coach’s job. Is Winston one of them? Well, there was said to be some tension between the two, but the former Heisman Trophy winner has played some of his best football down the stretch (last week’s fumble aside). Let’s take the points.
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