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New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Point Spread - Pick

New Orleans Saints (11-4 SU, 9-6 ATS) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11 SU, 5-9-2 ATS)
Week 17 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, December 31, 2017 at 4:25PM EST
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
TV: Fox

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: NO -7.5/TB +7.5
Over/Under Total: 50.5

The New Orleans Saints play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in a week 17 NFC South matchup. The Saints won their 11th game on Sunday, as they prepare for the postseason. They scored a nice 23-13 win over the Falcons, as they have started getting into playoffs-mode. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, continued to see more disappointment this season with a 22-19 loss to the Panthers. A Panthers touchdown with 35 seconds left cost them another win as they fell to an inglorious 4-11, going from a team that was considered on the rise to a massive letdown. As divisional rivals, these teams already met in the Superdome, with the Saints scoring a fairly-routine 30-10 win for their 6th straight victory in a row on November 5.

The Saints will win the division with a win over Tampa on Sunday. To be the 3-seed, they'll need to win and have the Rams lose. To be the 4-seed, they need to win or have the Panthers lose. And they could end up being the 5-seed if they lose this and Carolina beats Atlanta. There is enough on the line to make this a big game for the Saints. Losses to the Rams and the Falcons had some people thinking they were slowing down, but recent wins over the Panthers, Jets, and Falcons last week show they are still in fine form for a team that started the season 0-2.

The Saints flaunt a big-time and divergently-effective offense that can get you in any number of ways. Drew Brees is again over 4000 yards. Key to the offensive success this season is the performance of two all-pro running backs in Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. Ingram is over 1000 yards on the ground with 12 touchdowns, while also catching 54 balls. Kamara, meanwhile, has 684 yards on the ground and 742 through the air for 12 total touchdowns. Through the air, Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn, Jr. have provided a nice one-two punch. And maybe they've been holding WR Willie Snead back, as he could still step up and make some big plays moving forward.

These last few weeks have had a steadying affect on the Saints' defense. They've rediscovered their stoutness in the last few weeks, getting a bit healthier as well. On Sunday, CB Marshon Lattimore got his 5th pick. A lot of kudos go to him, Ken Crawley, Vonn Bell, and Marcus Williams for making this secondary serviceable, though losing S Kenny Vaccaro was costly. DE Cameron Jordan has been big with his 12 sacks, while the middle is strong with Craig Robertson and Manti Te'o having a lot of production the last handful of weeks. About a month ago, they were beginning to unravel a bit and with 32 combined points allowed the past two games, they appear to have righted the ship.

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The Bucs look to be in a lot of trouble. At the end of last season, a strong finish made them a team to keep an eye on. But from having their first game postponed this season, they haven't really gotten into a rhythm. A 2-1 start evaporated and they have dropped 11 of 13 entering this regular-season finale. The problems are too many to name. The offensive line has been decimated by injuries, as has the secondary, which is truly awful this season. They haven't been able to run the ball, new offensive acquisitions didn't pan out, and just about everything fell flat this season for the Bucs.

Jameis Winston hasn't been handed the best situation by a long shot, but he hasn't been very good, either. Peyton Barber is not an ideal starting tailback and a deficient line leaves Winston on his heels a lot. Turnovers and overall mistake-prone play have plagued this side of the ball. To say Winston has taken a step back in his third season is probably fair. But it's not all his fault. The addition of DeSean Jackson (questionable) has been underwhelming. Rookie TE OJ Howard (out) has 6 touchdowns, but making full-use of his talents never really happened. Even top receiver Mike Evans is a notch below his normal production this season.

It's one thing to be porous and Tampa's defense is definitely leaky. But when nothing else falls into line, it can make it a lot worse. Rushing the passer is something that is not a reliable part of this defense. The pass-defense is sometimes laughable. And despite a lot of talent up front, they haven't been able to stop the run on a consistent basis this season. What really makes it bad is the lack of clutch on this side of the ball. They've lost three straight games by exactly 3 points, which shows they haven't given up. But a little big play ability late would have helped and it just hasn't been there for the Bucs this season.

Again, Tampa is in there still trying. They've tried to play the role of spoiler the last few weeks, falling just short. But still, the Panthers and Falcons before that had to dig pretty deep to beat them the last two weeks and now they're getting better than a TD at home against the Saints. I don't expect them to dutifully play the role of easy-pickings for the Saints this week. I think the Saints will win, but I see it being a struggle. I'll take the points.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers plus 7.5 points. Bet the New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay game for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% sign-up bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $500 at GTBets!

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