NFL Sunday Night Football: Saints/Buccaneers Preview

by Big Al Staff

The NFL divisional playoffs conclude Sunday night at 6:40 PM ET, with New Orleans hosting Tampa Bay in the final game of their NFC South trilogy this season.

Tampa Bay Bay lost two games in a row at home by identical 27-24 scores to the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City at the end of November to place their playoff aspirations in jeopardy. The Buccaneers have since won all five of their games and advanced to the NFC divisional round of the playoffs last week with their 31-23 victory at Washington. Tom Brady completed 22 of 40 passes for 381 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Football Team’s defense. The 43-year old veteran completed 65.7% of his passes in the regular season for 4633 yards with 40 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions in his first season in Tampa Bay.

The Buccaneers have scored 40.7 points-per-game in their last three games while averaging 526.7 yards-per-game in those contests. The Tampa Bay defense has held their last three opponents to 20.8 points-per-game and 315.3 yards-per-game. The Bucs’ defense ranks eighth in the NFL by allowing 22.2 points-per-game and limiting their opponents to 329.9 yards-per-game. Their defense gets linebacker Devin White back from the COVID list for this game.

New Orleans has won their last three games after defeating Chicago last Sunday by a 21-9 score as an 11-point favorite. Drew Brees completed 28 of 39 passes for 265 yards with two touchdown passes. Brees completed 70.5% of his passes in his 12 games in the regular season for 2942 yards with 24 touchdown passes and six interceptions. In his last four games since returning from his rib injury in December, Brees has completed 84 of 131 passes for a 64.1% completion percentage with 1011 yards with eight touchdown passes and three interceptions.

The Saints are fifth in the NFL with a 29.6 points-per-game scoring average. The New Orleans defense was third in the league by allowing 20.4 points-per-game, and they ranked second by holding their opponents to 306.4 yards-per-game. This unit gets a boost with defensive end Troy Hendrickson expected to return to action tonight.

Head coach Sean Payton is not likely to have quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Latavius Murray with the reports this afternoon that is it “not looking good” that they will be able to take the field. Hill is dealing with a knee injury while Murray has a quad. Cornerback Patrick Robinson is out with a hamstring. Center William Clapp is unavailable on the COVID list. Guard Nick Easton became the sixth player this season to go on their Injured List.

Running back Ronald Jones is questionable with a quad after taking part in limited practice for Tampa Bay. Safety Jordan Whitehead is questionable with a knee, and he also took part in limited practice this week. Safety Andrew Adams did not practice this week and is questionable. Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter is out with his calf injury. Guard Alex Cappa was the seventh player to either be declared out the season or put on Injured Reserve.

New Orleans won the first meeting between these two teams on September 13th in a 34-20 victory as a 4-point favorite. The Saints then upset the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay on November 8th by a 38-3 score as a 3-point underdog.

BookMaker lists New Orleans as a 2.5-point favorite, with the total set at 53. Kickoff is at 6:40 PM ET on Fox.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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