First place in the NFC South is on the line Sunday night as Drew Brees and the Saints (5-2) head to Tampa Bay to face Tom Brady and the Buccaneers (6-2).  What a great prime time matchup this is.  

Week 9 Prime Time Picks: Saints (+188) vs Buccaneers (-4) O/U 50.5 – All lines via DraftKings

Prime Time Picks: 9-6

Both Teams Riding Winning Streaks

The Buccaneers have won three in a row, and six of their last seven.  New Orleans has won three in a row, with all three wins being by three points, and two of them in OT.  The Bucs looked rather unspectacular on Monday night against the 1-7 Giants, squeaking out a 25-23 win.  They are going into this matchup on a short week, but the good news is they will be at home, where they are 3-0 this season, and have scored over 30 points in all three games.

NFC South Rematch

These two teams squared off in Week 1 in NOLA, with the Saints getting the win 34-23.  The Saints defense forced Tampa to turn the ball over three times, including picking off Tom Brady twice.  They were also able to sack Brady three times.  Time of possession was fairly even, and the Bucs were able to out gain the Saints 310-271, but the turnovers were extremely costly.  The nail in the coffin was a pick-6 from Janoris Jenkins that helped seal the win for the Saints.  This game remains the only one this season where Brady has thrown two interceptions.  In fact, since that game, Brady has 18 TD’s with just 2 interceptions in 7 games.  Will the Saints defense be able to rattle Brady again?

Both Defenses Playing Well

Both of these defenses rank in the top 10 in team defense so far this season.  The Bucs rank 3rd, and are allowing just 299.5 yards and 20.6 points per game.  They are #1 in rushing defense, allowing 70.4 yards per game.  They were able to hold Alvin Kamara in check in their first matchup, and will look to do that again this week.  For the Saints, they rank 8th in yards allowed per game with 328.4.  They are also good against the run, as they are 3rd in the league, giving up 90.6 yards per game.  The bad news is that they are giving up 28.1 points per game, 23rd in the league.  Both teams are a lot weaker against the pass than they are against the run, so look for Brees and Brady to exploit those weaknesses.  

Saints Offense

Drew Brees is not exactly setting the world on fire with his stat lines, but he is playing well and not turning the ball over.  He has 13 touchdown passes compared to only three interceptions–and that ratio is 4-to-0 over the past two weeks.  The Saints offense is more dink and dunk, as Brees rarely throws a pass longer than 15 yards down the field.  But, that has been effective, especially with how well Alvin Kamara has been playing.  Kamara is averaging 5 yards per carry, and 10.1 yards per catch.  He has caught at least eight passes in five of the seven games this season, and limiting him will be huge priority for Tampa.  They were able to do this in Week 1, as Kamara was held to just 16 yards on 12 carries for a YPC average of 1.3-the lowest in Kamara’s career.  However, he was able to score twice, once on the ground, and once through the air.  

New Receivers

Remember Antonio Brown?  Yeah he’s back.  Brown will make his Bucs debut Sunday night, and it will be his first appearance in an NFL game since September 15 of 2019 where he played just one game with the Patriots.  Brown and Brady connected four times for 56 yards and touchdown, and now they are reunited in Tampa Bay.  He has impressed the Tampa coaching staff with his physical condition after such a long hiatus from the league, and they believe that Brown will play a pivotal role in their success moving forward.  For the Saints, it is looking more and more likely that stud WR Michael Thomas will return for the first time this season since Week 1 when he suffered a high ankle sprain.  Thomas has practiced in a limited capacity all week and is officially listed as questionable, but ESPN’s Dianna Russini stated that Thomas is expected to play.  That will provide a big spark to the Saints offense.

PREDICTION

The Buccaneers have lost 4 in a row in this series, and I think the Week 1 loss for Brady and Bucs left a sour taste in their mouths.  Keep in mind, that was Brady’s first week with his new offense, and it was obvious they were not clicking just right.  However, they have improved mightily since then, and the receiving weapons that Brady has are among the best in the league.  He spreads the ball around, and adding Antonio Brown to an offense that already includes Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Godwin (who is expected to play), Jaydon Mickens, and Scotty Miller is not a good matchup for a weak Saints passing defense.  I know they had success against Brady in Week 1, but I think Brady will have things figured out this time around.  The Saints needed OT last week to beat Nick Foles on the road, and the Bears passing offense is near the bottom of the league.  Brady and the Bucs pose a much bigger threat.  The Bucs defense is the best in the league against the run, so I don’t expect the Saints to keep it on the ground much, which could lead to an unbalanced offense.  The key for the Bucs will be trying to limit Kamara catching passes and getting yards after the catch.  The Saints tend to rely on Kamara a lot, but if Michael Thomas plays, having him back will surely help.  The Bucs need a win to stay in first place in the division, and I don’t think they will get swept by the Saints in this season series.  I have taken the Bucs in two previous Prime Time Picks, and they have failed to cover both times.  I think the third time is the charm, and I’m taking the Bucs to win and cover at home on Sunday night.  

Buccaneers -4

@stadium_times

Title Photo: Clutch Points

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