Week 13; Monday Night Football; #Saints @ #GoBucs

As is always the case at this stage of the season, we had some big games last night with major playoff implications. In the biggest game we saw Joe Burrow and the Bengals win their third straight close game against the Chiefs in the last two years. That result means the Bills have overtaken the Chiefs for the top seed in the AFC and also means that the Bengals can be confident of a return to the playoffs despite their tough remaining schedule. We also had three inter-conference games between playoff contenders, with the NFC coming out on top in all three as the Eagles, Vikings and 49ers beat the Titans, Jets and Dolphins.

Unfortunately there were more injuries though, and the 49ers are now down to their third quarterback of the season after Jimmy Garoppolo was ruled out for the year and the Ravens will be sweating on the fitness of Lamar Jackson as they look to hold onto the AFC North ahead of the Bengals.

This week’s Monday Night Football is an NFC South matchup that does also come with its own playoff implications.

New Orleans Saints +3.5 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 41.0

All four of the teams in the NFC South are under .500 and even though the Saints are bottom of the division and have won just four of their twelve games this season, they somehow still have an outside playoff chance. A win tonight will send them into their bye week level on wins with the Bucs with three very winnable games from their remaining four (Falcons, Browns and Panthers). But on the other side, a victory for the Bucs would have them just needing one or two more wins to retain the division for the first time.

The Saints have had the better of the Bucs in recent years but Tampa will be hoping that they stopped the rot after winning their first regular season game against New Orleans with Brady as QB earlier in the year.

Saints

After being shutout by the 49ers last week, the Saints are still rolling with Andy Dalton as the starter (for now). As is usually the case with Dalton he has been inoffensive if you just look at his box score but the reality is he is nothing more than a backup at this stage of his NFL career. The Bucs have kept opposition to an average of 192 passing yards per game and so I’d definitely be leaning to the under on Dalton’s line of 213.5 yards tonight.

Just about the only positive part of the Saints season has been the excellent rookie campaign for Chris Olave. He has impressed regardless of who has been at quarterback for the Saints and leads all rookie wide receivers in receiving yards with 822. He was my bet to lead rookies in that category at the start of the year and it looked to be in the bag a few weeks ago but I’m sweating on Garrett Wilson being just 32 yards behind him now he has someone relatively capable of throwing the ball his way.

Olave’s lines tonight are 58.5 yards and 4.5 receptions, I would be nervous of the Bucs taking him out of the game but would have more confidence in the yards as he leads the league in deep targets. Alongside Olave, Jarvis Landry will see a handful of targets but I’m not sure it’ll be enough to justify his 39.5 yard line, so I’ll take the under there (Landry u39.5 receiving yards).

Alvin Kamara has probably been the most frustrating part of this offense, his 13.1 carries per game has somehow seen him return just one rushing touchdown on the season. He continues to be involved in the passing game though with just one game with under three catches, I think he smashes the line of 3.5 tonight.

Buccaneers

The Bucs won back-to-back games prior to their Week 11 bye and might have been thinking that they had turned a corner before succumbing to the Browns in overtime last week. The run game has been their main issue as they rank bottom of the league with just 3.3 yards per carry but are also bottom five in yards per pass attempt at 6.5.

Brady is on course to break his career record for passing attempts per game (42.7) for the second season in a row but his yards per game average is down from 312.7 last year to 277.4. He threw multiple passing touchdowns in two straight games for the first time this season last week and I think he keeps that streak going tonight (Brady over 1.5 passing TD’s is 4/6 with Bet365).

We can’t talk about a Bucs vs Saints game without mentioning Mike Evans and Marshon Lattimore. Evans was ejected in the matchup earlier in the year which led to his second suspension for fighting the Saints cornerback. Lattimore is questionable for tonight’s game but surely wants to get out there for this matchup. If he does suit up, it’s probably worth taking the under on Evans lines of 62.5 yards or 4.5 receptions as he tends to struggle against him even if he does stay in the game.

Chris Godwin had his first 100 yard game of the season last week against the Browns and has scored in back to back games after being held without a touchdown in his first seven games. He should get the better matchup if Lattimore is active and is preoccupied with Evans and so I like him to score again tonight (Godwin anytime TD is 9/5 with Paddy Power).

Rachaad White had the backfield to himself last week with Leonard Fournette injured but it looks like Lenny will be back for this one and so we’ll have to wait and see if White has won the job or if they’ll go back to more of a committee approach. White has been more efficient but the chances are we’ll see Fournette back involved in the receiving game at least and he could potentially see the goal line work.

Who wins?

The Bucs should win this game but things haven’t gone to plan for either of these teams this season so nothing would be a surprise. The trend is heavily towards the under on the total as neither team has been able to score at will but they have solid defenses. I do think 41 is a little low though I’ll steer clear.

I always seem to fall for the William Hill boost and for this one it’s 10/1 for a Godwin TD, under 41 points and a Bucs win, which again is very tempting.

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