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NFL expert Ben Gretch is back previewing and predicting Week 15's Sunday Night Football matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints.

Sunday Night Football Week 15 Preview and Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints Start Time, Where to Watch, and Odds

Date: Sunday, December 19, 2021

Game Time: 8:20 p.m ET

Where to Watch: NBC

  • Key Stat: Over the past six weeks, the Buccaneers’ rush defense ranks 27th in rushing success rate against, after ranking third over the season’s first eight weeks.

Click Here For Buccaneers vs. Saints Odds

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints Over/Under Movement

Buccaneers vs. Saints Prediction

The Buccaneers host the Saints Sunday night in Tampa, and the line and over/under suggest this game comes down to whether the Saints can score. Already without both top offensive tackles, Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead, New Orleans will also play without head coach Sean Payton, who landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Taysom Hill will start, but the Buccaneers’ defense is an extreme pass funnel, meaning opposing offenses try to beat them through the air. Last week, the Bills didn’t handoff to a running back for the entire first half against Tampa.

Those factors conspire to bring us a double-digit point line and an over/under in the mid-forties, despite five of the past six Bucs games — and 10 of their 13 this season overall — going over this game’s 45.5 total. Of course, the Bucs’ offense will score — their season-low is 19 points, and they’ve put up 30 in four straight games. And as opponents have taken to the air against them, and stopped the clock with incompletions, and extended the game, Bucs’ games have tended to have plenty of scoring overall.

Even against a good Saints’ defense, expect a healthy Tampa offense to put up points. Tampa’s offense isn’t much of a secret — they are loaded with playmakers and led by the most-equipped quarterback in the league to read a defense and get the ball where the matchup is beneficial. That’s meant 25 catches for Chris Godwin over the past two weeks, and Leonard Fournette becoming more of a staple in the red zone of late. While if teams work to take those underneath elements away, Tom Brady can look downfield to Mike Evans or a resurgent Rob Gronkowski, who is getting vertical at a high rate again this season. Last week, the overtime Bucs’ game-winner went to Breshad Perriman because the defense blew an assignment, and Perriman could take a short crosser up the opposite sideline for a 58-yard score.

The Saints are a solid defensive team, but the Bucs are too dialed in right now offensively to bet against that. Tampa is still banged up in the secondary and can give up points, too. The question is whether the Saints can capitalize without much for playmakers at the wide receiver and tight end positions? The Saints are coming off a win against the Jets where their preferred method for offense against an inferior team was to give Alvin Kamara 27 rush attempts and for Hill to rush for two scores.

Without their pass-protecting offensive tackles, and because of Hill’s skill set, the Saints will need to try to run the ball some. Interestingly, while Tampa ranked third in the NFL in success rate against the run over the season’s first eight weeks, they rank 27th over the past six. Of course, some of that is due to opposing teams, like the Bills last week, throwing against them so much they fall into a clear pass defense on nearly every down. But it’s at least a small positive note, mainly because the combination of Hill and Kamara gives the Saints multiple rushing weapons on many plays. Defenders have to respect Hill’s ability to pull the ball on plays like read-options, and rushing quarterbacks like Hill tend to positively impact the efficiency of the running backs playing beside them for this reason.

I’m on the over. It’s a manageable number, and I think Tampa wins this one, dictates the pace, and the Saints find their way into some points. Whether New Orleans can cover the spread is a different story, but I expect Tampa’s streak of 30-plus point games to continue here, which means the Saints won’t have to for us to get over this number.

Buccaneers vs. Saints Pick

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Ben knows his football. A fantasy football expert who was most recently seen at CBS Sports, he'll be helping bettors find value ahead in the NFL with OddsChecker.

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