The NFL playoff divisional weekend concludes Sunday night with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5, 6-2 away) battling the New Orleans Saints (12-4, 6-2 home), the winner advancing to the AFC Championship next week. The Saints won both meetings during the regular season when these two teams faced each other. Sunday night’s game kicks off at 6:40 p.m. EST inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. New Orleans is a 3-point favorite in the playoff showdown, according to oddsmakers.
What to Know – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay took care of business in the wild-card game against the Washington Football Team in a 31-23 victory last week. The Buccaneers finished the regular season in second place behind the Saints, with two of their five losses coming against the Saints.
Tom Brady completed 22-of-40 passes for 381 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Football Team. Brady had a solid first season in Tampa, throwing for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns. The touchdown total was the second-highest of Brady’s career during the regular season.
Starting running back, Ronald Jones II missed the wild card game and is questionable for the matchup versus the Saints. In his absence, Leonard Fournette stepped up to rush 19 times for 93 yards and a touchdown. His 4.9 yards per carrying was his highest of the season.
Mike Evans was questionable entering last week’s game but played through injury and led the Bucs with six receptions for a game-high 119 yards. Wideouts Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown each caught touchdown receptions in the victory.
What to Know – New Orleans Saints
New Orleans entered the postseason as the NFC’s second seed and throttled the Chicago Bears, 21-9. The Saints won the South division for the fourth year in a row and looking to get back to the NFC Championship for the second time in three seasons.
Veteran quarterback Drew Brees missed four games this season after suffering broken ribs in mid-November. Brees came back and played the regular season’s final three games, finishing with 2,942 yards passing and 24 touchdowns. Against the Bears, Brees tossed a pair of touchdown passes and completed 28-of-39 passes for 265 yards.
Alvin Kamara’s 1,688 yards from scrimmage during the regular season ranked third in the NFL, while his 21 touchdowns lead the league. Kamara didn’t slow down against a tough Bears defense, rushing 23 times for 99 yards and a touchdown. The talented back has found the endzone in all but three games this season.
Deonte Harris set season-highs in the playoff victory with seven receptions for 83 yards to lead the Saints. Michael Thomas added five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. The Saints’ second-leading receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, was held to two catches for three yards.
The Pick is In
The Saints embarrassed Tampa the last time these two teams met, and Brady and company have most likely hoped to get another crack at the Saints this season. There is a saying that it is hard to beat a team three times, and we believe that holds in this one.
The Pick: Tampa Bay +3