Heated NFC South rivals renew acquaintances this weekend in a pivotal Week 15 clash. The New Orleans Saints travel to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game with significant playoff implications.
According to the latest NFL odds, the Saints (+10.5) are significant underdogs. Last week, New Orleans snapped a five-game losing streak with a 30-9 win over the New York Jets. They will need to sustain that momentum in Week 15 to pull off the upset.
How will the Saints’ offense fare? Can they cover the spread against division-leading Tampa Bay?
Here are some keys heading into Week 15.
Can the Saints Establish the Pass?
The passing offense has been an issue for the Saints throughout this season. New Orleans is ranked 29th in average passing yards per game at 197.9. They will likely need to improve on this to keep pace with the high-powered Bucs offense.
Taysom Hill showed progress last week by limiting his mistakes after throwing four picks in Week 13 against the Dallas Cowboys. Hill represents a significant rushing threat. Still, he needs to avoid costly turnovers for New Orleans to establish a more balanced attack.
The Buccaneers’ passing defense represents an ideal opponent. Tampa Bay is ranked 24th in average yards allowed (251.8) and is ranked last over their past three games (279). Hill will likely get opportunities to push the ball downfield against a below-average secondary. Will this lead to more points for the Saints?
Alvin Kamara Is an X-Factor
Saints running back Alvin Kamara returned from an injury last week after being out for over a month. His presence was prominent, as he contributed 145 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.
The Saints are 6-3 when Kamara has played this season and 0-4 without him. They have averaged 25.7 points per game when he is in the lineup and 18.3 when he is out. So it is clear that he makes a big difference to the offense.
A healthy Kamara should provide Taysom Hill with a security blanket that can turn simple check-down passes into big yardage plays.
Past Matchups Favor the Saints
Since arriving in Tampa Bay last year, Tom Brady has had success against the NFC South, going 7-3, including the playoffs. However, all three defeats have come at the hands of New Orleans.
In their last three regular-season wins against the Brady-led Bucs, the Saints have averaged 36 points per game. The defense has also managed to throw Brady out of rhythm, forcing an uncharacteristic seven interceptions.
While Tampa did knock the Saints out of the playoffs last year, the recent regular-season success is still difficult to ignore. So has Sean Payton figured out a way to attack the Bucs that the rest of the league has yet to figure out?
Can the New Orleans Saints Pull Off an Upset?
A lot will be riding on Saints vs. Buccaneers this weekend.
It’s do-or-die time for the New Orleans Saints. A loss in Week 15 would put them in a very precarious spot for the postseason. On the other hand, the Bucs have not lost at home all season and will represent a tough challenge.
With that said, New Orleans can draw from recent success in this matchup. A healthy Alvin Kamara should help Taysom Hill and the offense continue to improve, and the Bucs secondary is vulnerable.
If the Saints avoid turnovers, they should keep this game competitive and score some points. So consider New Orleans as a possible candidate for BetMGM’s King of the Weekend promo. Sign up for an account today, choose the top six scoring offenses for the week, and you could win $50,000.