When the Saints host the Buccaneers in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox), their NFC South rivalry will take an unusual turn.
Drew Brees returns for another season to quarterback the Saints, but he’s no longer the oldest and most Super Bowl-winning passer in the division. That honor now belongs to Tom Brady, making his much anticipated second-team debut after leaving New England for Tampa Bay in free agency.
The Saints have won three consecutive division titles with complete command, only to have three consecutive disappointing playoff exits. The Bucs are hoping to improve greatly from a 7-9 team that could have been a lot better with fewer mistakes from QB Jameis Winston.
Bruce Arians has now teamed up with Brady to that end, hoping to stop the run of Bress and Sean Payton. With no preseason, this has become one of the most intriguing matchups of Week 1.
Here’s everything to know about betting on Buccaneers vs. Saints in Week 1, including updated odds, trends and our expert’s prediction for the NFL’s game of the week.
Buccaneers vs Saints odds
- Spread: Saints by 3.5
- Over/under: 47.5
- Point spread odds: Buccaneers -110, Saints -110
The Saints have been about field-goal favorites since the initial lines were released. That is pretty much tied to the home-field advantage of the Superdome and their lack of newness in relation to the Buccaneers and their big changes.
Buccaneers vs. Saints all-time series
The Saints hold the overall edge, 35-21, as the teams became only NFC South rivals in 2002. New Orleans has won three consecutive times in the series with an average margin of victory of 13 points.
Before that the Bucs had won two in a row, but that snapped a Saints streak of two straight, too. Going back to the end of 2011, the Saints have won 17 of their past 21 meetings with the Bucs.
Three trends to know
— 95 percent of bettors are confident the game will go over its modest point total with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks and two explosive passing games.
— 96 percent of bettors love the Buccaneers on the moneyline. 53 percent are with them to at least cover the spread.
— The Saints were 11-6 against the spread last season. The Bucs were only 5-9-2 against the spread in 2019.
Three things to watch
Brady and Rob Gronkowski, reunited
Brady isn’t the only notable former Patriot now playing for the Buccaneers. His future Hall of Fame tight end has come out of retirement to further boost a highly skilled offense. Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich plan to use more 12 personnel, given Gronkowski adds to a position strength with incumbents O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate.
That should give Tampa more versatility in the passing game to support top wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. It will also boost the blocking for the running game, where the Bucs hope to get something strong out of Ronald Jones and Jaguars castoff Leonard Fournette.
Gronkowski can be strong in a complementary role. At first, he may be needed more to stretch the field down the seam with Evans hamstrung and unlikely to play. The Saints covered the tight end well last season, but Gronk is a different animal.
Brees and Emmanuel Sanders, revved up
Tbe Saints also made a splash move to give themselves a veteran field-stretcher by adding Sanders, the former Steeler, Bronco and 49er, opposite dominant all-everything receiver Michael Thomas. New Orleans hasn’t had a No. 2 for Thomas that good and savvy.
New Orleans has many dimensions to its passing game; Sanders adds some more big-play ability downfield to open things for Thomas, the tight ends and the running backs in the short-to-intermediate attack.
Alvin Kamara vs. the Bucs’ run defense
Kamara batted through multiple injuries last season to stay productive as the Saints’ lead back, but he’s back fully healthy, looking to put up the big numbers of his first two seasons and prove worthy of his brand-new lucrative contract extension. He and solid backup Latavius Murray have a tough challenge right away in trying to run on the Bucs, who boasted the NFL’s No. 1 rushing defense last season, allowing 3.3 yards per carry.
Keep in mind the Saints were No. 4 against the run last season. This seems like a game destined for Brees and Brady to air it out often to pleasing high-scoring results.
Stats that matter
116.1 and 3-2. Those are Brees’ passer rating and record in his career matchups vs. Brady, from the Chargers to the Saints, all against the Patriots. He’s thrown 12 touchdowns in those five games with only interception.
Brady has been almost as stellar on the other side of the Brees. He has a passer rating of 103.6 with 11-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio. In their Saints-Patriots duels in 2013 and 2017, the teams combined for 56 and 57 points.
Assuming both stay healthy, Brady has a chance to take the lead head-to-head with two games this season, as he’s now a division foe of Brees. In his 18 starts vs. Tampa Bay, Brees is 18-10 with a 98.3 passer rating.
Buccaneers vs. Saints prediction
The Saints added Sanders, but they are pretty much the same well-established from last season. The Bucs have a lot of newness beyond Brady and Gronk, including their offensive line and defense. Arians’ team will put it together in time to be a dangerous NFC content, but out of the gate on the road, the Saints will march out comfortably to the early NFC South lead.
Saints 34, Buccaneers 27