Sure Bet: Buccaneers plus points at New Orleans all day, baby!

Thursday, 14 January 2021 14:22 EST

NFLbets admits that we blew our only chance in the 2020 NFL regular season at a “Sure Bet”, missing on Kansas City Chiefs -3½ at New Orleans Saints by – you guessed it – a half-point as part of the Chiefs’ 0-8 jag to close out the year. But whining about a bad beat in week 15 is crying over long-spiled beer and, besides, we’ve got a can’t-miss in the upcoming divisional round that’ll even recoup the losses Andy Reid’s team cost you.

We’re talking here about betting on

Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3 at New Orleans Saints, over/under 52 points

With a 3-point handicap given to the visitors, sportsbooks are more or less indicating that this game is even-up in a neutral location. Though seemingly weird for sportsbooks to continue automatically handicapping the traditional additional 2½-3½ points in stadium-empty 2020/2021, the sportsbooks are actually nailing it overall.

For the entire season plus last week’s six-pack of games, home teams are playing significantly worse than in typical seasons, when the success rate runs 57% to 60%. Homedogs are 129-132-1 SU and – get this – 129-132-1 ATS. This final area in which the Saints might have an advantage looks wiped away by pandemic conditions; indeed, the Superdome’s turf surface helps a speedy opponent just as much as the Saints as in games against the Chiefs, L.A. Chargers and Carolina Panthers.

History says that the team who goes 2-0 SU in the regular season against their playoff opponent advances in the playoffs. Since 1970, teams have played each other thrice in a season 21 times, and 14 times resulted in a sweep, but since 2004 that 14-7 shrinks to just 3-3 SU/2-4 ATS. Add to this the relatively miniscule point spread, third-smallest ever for a third meeting and shortest since 1993, and we can probably agree this factor is neutralized as well.

(For more on these 21 meeting, see the recent piece at Football Perspective entitled How hard is it to beat a team three times in one season?)

But trending and numbers aside, NFLbets just has to ask: What’s the deal with all this doublethink about Tom Brady?

Brady has been justifiably praised for months for his play well into his 40s, and it has been well observed that the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers represent the strongest set of “skill players” in any offense he’s played with. Beyond Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Brady has helped developed second-year pro Scott Miller into a viable third (and often second) option while enjoying the late reemergences of Rob Gronkowski (7 TD catches in the last 11 games) and Antonio Brown (5 in the last four games). And o yes, they’ve got Ronald Jones, good for 5.1 yards per carry, and human bowling ball Leonard Fournette out of the backfield. So playing on turf hurts which of these guys…?

Back to the regular-season sweep of the Buccaneers of which much has been made, the credence we may give those wins should probably be tempered slightly. New Orleans’ 34-23 week 1 came against a Tampa Bay side without Brown and Gronk; Brady et at have no real excuse for their subsequent 38-3 home loss to the Saints, but it was more than half a season ago. Since the second loss to the Saints, the Bucs are averaging a huge 34.2 points per game.

Granted, these numbers are pumped a bit by the fact that just three of the previous eight Bucs games have been against playoff teams, but NFLbets’d argue that 1) nearly five TDs per game is a lot to score against any NFL team and 2) the Saints have seen just two playoff teams in their past nine games.

You can likely tell where NFLbets is going with this, but what of those Saints? Their injury report is fairly clean seemingly: As of Thursday, indications are that DB Patrick Robinson and RB Latavius Murray will not play, but TE Jared Cook and DE Trey Hendrickson probably will. How Drew Brees will fare gritting out one more game after breaking 11 ribs, but the Saints have somehow managed a 10-7 ATS record with a fairly low-watt passing game – just three times since the second Buccaneers game have New Orleans quarterbacks went for more than 250 yards.

In analyzing these games, there comes a point when one can have too many numbers and we have officially reached that point. Truth is that NFLbets’ wager for this game was iced at halftime of the Bears-Saints game last weekend. So you’re putting Brady with this offense on turf in the late slot on Sunday against a team who was up 7-3 at halftime against Chicago and *giving* three points? Great! NFLbets says these are Sure Bets: Take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3 at New Orleans and take the Buccaneers ML at 1/1.

--written by Os Davis