Friday, December 14, 2012

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints: TB +4 (Bodog)

Markets

NFL Picks 2012: Buccaneers vs Saints
Thanks to a couple subpar weeks from the Buccaneers, we have some line value in Week 15 action vs the Saints. In reality, this line should be no more than -3 at most.  Even last week in the look-ahead line, Vegas had the Saints as -3.5 favorites.  When the line re-opened for betting on Sunday, books offered -3.25.  This allowed sharp money to set the market.  Thus far, the sharps out there like New Orleans in this spot and moved the number all the way to -4.  We could see it move even more, but that would surprise me.  I'm going to go ahead and take the value now and let the chips fall where they may. 

Noteworthy

The Saints have had trouble establishing a reliable running game this season and now they face the most efficient run defense in the NFL.  This has put too much pressure on Brees, who has 9 interceptions in the last 3 games.  It hasn't helped that they actually thought a playoff run was in sight.  With that gone, they're doing their best to tell the media and its fans that they're just as committed to winning.  That looks good in print, but not so great on the field.  On the bright side, if Brees is on his game and he wants to pad his stats, the Bucs pass defense would be the one to do it against.  Like a lot of Saints games, if they want to come out on top they'll need to outscore everyone through the air and limit the mistakes.  Unfortunately, that formula isn't working in 2012.

The bigger problems come with the Saints defense.  It seems like whenever a team is in a slump, they turn things around once they face New Orleans. Cue the Tampa Bay Bucs who are sliding after their impressive win streak.  I expect Freeman to get back on track and he should have a much better completion percentage on Sunday than he's had in the last two games. Making the task even tougher for the Saints is their league worst run defense. Doug Martin should be able to improve his rookie totals against this porous unit.

Bottom Line

This isn't a game that most handicappers want to get involved with, and it's hard to really blame them, but I'm not buying into the Saints as a -4 favorite at this stage of the game.  If they still had a legitimate shot at a wild card spot I'd probably skip this game, but with nothing more than pride to play for, I'll gladly take the points on the dog.  Last year the Saints were undefeated against the spread at home. This year they are only 3-3.  Meanwhile, the Bucs are point spread covering machines on the road at 5-0-1 against the number. I like their chances to continue that trend this weekend.