First place in the NFC South will be on the line for Sunday Night Football in a showdown between the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
These two teams met in the opening week of the season. New Orleans won by a 34-23 score as a 4-point favorite (with the total at 48) in what was the first game for Tom Brady in a Tampa Bay uniform. The 43-year old had some difficulties playing in a new offense that day as he completed 23 of 36 passes with two interceptions. Brady has only thrown two interceptions since that game in leading the Buccaneers to a 6-2 record. His 63.9% completion percentage against the Saints defense was the third lowest in his eight games this season.
Brady has found his groove with his new team as he has thrown 17 touchdowns to just one interception in his last five games. Tampa Bay has won the turnover battle in six of its seven games since that opening loss to New Orleans. They come off a 25-23 victory at New York against the Giants on Monday Night Football. Brady completed 28 of 40 passes for 279 yards in that game with two touchdown passes. He has completed over 70% of his passes in his last two games while passing for at least two touchdown passes in three straight contests. The Buccaneers return home after playing their previous two games on the road.
Only left guard Ali Marpet will be unavailable to Tampa Bay in this game from their active roster as he recovers from a concussion. Defensive end William Gholston has been on their COVID list, but his recent negative tests could put him in a position to play. Wide receiver Chris Godwin is questionable with his finger injury, but head coach Bruce Arians have declared he will play in some capacity. Recently-signed wide receiver Antonio Brown will also be eligible to make his debut with the team.
New Orleans raised their record to a 5-2 mark last week with their overtime 26-23 win in Chicago. That game left the Saints dealing with some nagging injuries with quarterback Drew Brees slowed with a shoulder and running back Alvin Kamara suffering from a foot issue. Both of those players are now off the injured list as of Friday, yet head coach Sean Payton was coy about their availability for this game. Wide receiver Michael Thomas remains questionable with an ankle injury, but he may make his return to the field for this game, given the high stakes.
The Saints only rushed for 82 yards in their win against the Bucs. That was their lowest rushing output of the season. New Orleans is averaging 119.3 rushing yards-per-game this season while topping the 90 yards threshold six times. Tamara has 431 yards on 87 carries, with Latavius Murray adding another 282 yards on 71 carries. Yet the Buccaneers lead the league by allowing only 70.4 rushing yards-per-game. Tampa Bay has held three of its opponents under 50 rushing yards this year.
This high-profile matchup features the two all-time NFL leaders in passing touchdowns with Brady’s 561 career touchdown passes just ahead of the 560 TD Brees has thrown in his career. BetOnline
lists the Buccaneers as a 4.5-point favorite, with the total set at 50.5. NBC has the broadcast with the kickoff at 8:20 PM ET.