New Orleans at Tampa Bay
Sunday, 10 am PT - FOX
CRIS Opener: Tampa Bay -4.5 O/U 50.5
CRIS Current: Tampa Bay -4.5 O/U 50.5
Recommendation: Tampa Bay
The Saints offense is built for the fast track of the Superdome. On the highway, Drew Brees and his colleagues have averaged only 17.5 points per game. To put that number in perspective, the Saints have scored 38, 28, 52, 31 and 26 in their last five home games, but they managed only 20 points combined in their last two road contests, ugly blowout losses at Houston and Washington.
And the Saints offense is riddled with key injuries. Drew Brees is healthy, but his supporting cast is not. New Orleans has lost underrated RB Mark Ingram (4.6 yards per carry and 50 catches out of the backfield), leaving tired retread Tim Hightower to shoulder the running load this week. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks has not yet passed his concussion protocol, no sure thing to suit up on Sunday. Willie Snead has been sidelined with a calk injury. And Marques Colston has been limited all year, not the pass catching force he was earlier in his career.
To make matters even worse, New Orleans suffered three key offensive line injuries last week. Tackles Zach Strife and Terron Armstead and guard Jahri Evans were all unable to practice on Thursday. Even if some or all of that trio suit up on Sunday, (no sure thing), I’m not convinced that they’ll be healthy enough to last all game, bad news if Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is able to suit up this week!
The Saints defense has been a disaster area all year, and that hasn’t changed as the calendar shifts to December. They’ve already fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan – the issues here aren’t schematic. Rather, it’s talent and attitude, both of which have been lacking. The Saints rank dead last in the NFL against the run, allowing a league worst 4.9 yards per carry. They also rank dead last in the NFL against the pass, with opposing QB’s enjoying a 116.6 passer rating against them. On a yards per play basis, the Saints 6.6 allowed also ranks as the worst in the NFL. Last week, the Saints put up 38 points and still couldn’t win. This week, they’ll be lucky to produce half of that number.
I recommended the Bucs in this spot last week as well, and Tampa delivered the goods with a solid win and cover at home against the Falcons. And I have no hesitation recommending Tampa again here, especially now that their full complement of offensive weapons is now healthy, with downfield threats Vincent Jackson and Austin Sefarian Jenkins both back in the lineup.
Rookie Jameis Winston is playing well down the stretch. Winston has thrown seven TD passes with only two interceptions in the last three weeks, while RB Doug Martin has 428 rushing yards during that same span, taking advantage of the extra space created by those big play receiving threats. Expect a comfortable win by the home favorite.