What’s wrong with this picture?
Tampa Bay is 2-1 at home this year, 4-1 ATS (against the spread) overall and has given up an average of 10 fewer points per game than New Orleans has. The Bucs are fresh off a 38-10 wire-to-wire victory over Kansas City in which they dominated both sides of the ball and did pretty much whatever they wanted without fear of repercussions.
New Orleans ‘ defense, meanwhile, has given up 30 points a game (dead last in the league), hasn’t yet won on the road, and even in its only win of the season (San Diego), was outgained by a Chargers team that’s struggling to keep its own head above water.
Despite it all, New Orleans is a 2.5-point favorite (bet down from an opener of 3), and the public has been hammering the Saints by a 3-1 margin. The over/under is 49.5.
So what gives?
“It’s a line that definitely is worth questioning,” says Aron Black at bet365.com
. “New Orleans as a road favorite, given how their season has gone so far . . . it’s a bit of a surprise.”
Black says public perception of NO as a solid team that is ready to trend upward helps fuel the number. And Covers.com expert handicapper Sean Murphy agrees.
“Reputation almost always precedes reality in the NFL,” says Covers Expert
and professional handicapper Sean Murphy. “The Saints are the household name, and after that beatdown [31-24] of the Chargers on national TV two weeks ago, most expect them to keep it rolling on Sunday.
“With that being said, I'm not all that interested in standing in the Saints’ way right now. The Bucs are coming off a blowout win of their own, so there isn't a great deal of value to be had in this particular matchup. Depending on where the line settles this weekend, maybe my opinion will change, but for now, this is a stay-away game.”
Bettors no doubt are concerned about New Orleans’s ability to move the ball through the air. Drew Brees is second in the league in TD passes (14 through only five games), and the Buccaneers haven’t yet shown a great interest in improving their lackadaisical pass defense. They rank 31st.
With Atlanta running away with the NFC South, both Tampa Bay and New Orleans will have to be content fighting for wild-card table scraps, and they’ll have to hustle to even remain in the playoff conversation as the halfway mark of the season approaches.