The New Orleans Saints will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL divisional playoff round on Sunday night. It will be Drew Brees against Tom Brady with a spot in the NFC Championship game up for grabs.
The Saints finished the regular season with a 12-4 record (6-2 at home), which was impressive considering the fact that Brees missed some games. In the WildCard round last week, they got past the Chicago Bears 21-9 in comfortable fashion.
The Buccs ended the regular season 11-5 (6-2 away). There were many ups and downs for them, which may be excusable given that they made a big change at QB by adding Tom Brady this season. The Bucs seemed to have got their act together and finished the season with 4 consecutive wins, but they didn’t look that fantastic in a 31-23 victory over a mediocre Washington team in the Wildcard round.
The Saints have been dominant against the Bucks this season, winning both meetings easily: 34-23 and 38-3! They have been the better team and seemingly match up well against this Tampa Bay side.
Based on the numbers and on what we have seen, one might have expected the Saints to be larger favorites than just three points here, but Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are given a lot of credit by the general public.
I feel that most arguments people are making for Tampa Bay are vague and wrapped up in cheap, empty cliches. You know how you roll your eyes when you hear analysis like “they wanted it more”, “they couldn’t handle the pressure” and things like that? That’s what I feel when I hear the most common arguments made by experts for Tampa Bay:
- “Tom Brady can’t lose three times in a season against the same team” (why not? in fact, imagine what kind of convoluted logic one must use to make Tampa Bay’s two blowout losses to the Saints this season an argument for … Tampa Bay)
- “Brady knows how to win big games”(oh come on! and anyway, Brees doesn’t?)
- “Brady is 13-2 in the Divisional playoffs”(he was younger and on another team).
And obviously it is not all about Tom Brady, or Drew Brees for that matter. The Saints have proved for the entirety of this season that they are a more reliable team, and should win this. Even if Tampa Bay looked better recently, it’s hard to overlook how dominant the Saints have been against them this year.
If you take away Brady from the Bucs and replace him with an equally gifted QB with a different name, the Saints would be priced below 1.50 to advance. In fact, those were the odds before the public started to move them up.
New Orleans’ exceptional defense is more than able to apply pressure on the QB and should make life hard for Tom Brady here. That could be the key, as the Bucs have the worst rushing offense of all the teams remaining in the playoffs. I am backing the hosts to win a hard fought clash and advance to the NFC Championship game against the Packers. Prediction: New Orleans Saints – Tampa Bay Buccanneers 27 – 19.