Fans of the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers might feel conflicted Sunday about whether to pull for their team to finish on a high note or play their way into a higher draft pick. The Buccaneers host the Saints in a season finale with no postseason implications, but the outcome could determine who gets the top choice in the draft. Tampa Bay is guaranteed to have one of the top two picks — it will pick first with a loss Sunday, or a win and a Tennessee win, and pick second with a win and a Titans' loss.
The Saints have won six straight in the series, including a 37-31 overtime victory in Week 5, but they don't have much to play for after having their playoff hopes dashed with last week's 30-14 loss to Atlanta. "The guys will have the right mentality," coach Sean Payton told reporters. "It's important to finish strong. It's an important game for us. Obviously it doesn't have the relevance that we'd hope." The Bucs have dropped five straight, including a 20-3 home loss to Green Bay last week, though three of those defeats have been by a combined 11 points.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: New Orleans -4. O/U: 46.5.
ABOUT THE SAINTS (6-9): New Orleans will miss the playoffs for the second time in three years despite boasting the NFL's top offense at 416.3 yards per game. Drew Brees and the offense continue to pile up yards, but they've also racked up 25 turnovers, including a season-high four last week against the Falcons. The giveaways have made it tough on an undermanned defense that's given up 400 or more yards in five of the past six games.
ABOUT THE BUCCANEERS (2-13): Tampa Bay's pitiful offense hit a new low against the Packers, managing 109 total yards and committing a turnover for the 20th straight game dating to last season. Rookie receiver Mike Evans, whose 11 touchdown receptions are tied for the franchise record set by Mike Williams in 2010, has been one of the few bright spots for the offense. The defense has been solid against the pass lately, allowing over 300 yards through the air only once in the past nine contests.
1. Brees needs 329 passing yards for his fifth 5,000-yard season — no other player has more than one.
2. Evans (997) and WR Vincent Jackson (991) are poised to become the first pair of Tampa Bay teammates to top 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.
3. Saints RB Mark Ingram (907 rushing yards, 8 TDs) needs 93 rushing yards to go over 1,000 for the first time.
PREDICTION: Saints 26, Buccaneers 17