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Saints vs. Bucs prediction: Bet on low-scoring defensive battle on MNF

NFC South rivals once again will struggle to score when they meet in Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady throws a pass while being pressured by Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (left) during a Week 2 clash in New Orleans. The Bucs and Saints meet again Monday night in Tampa. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady throws a pass while being pressured by Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (left) during a Week 2 clash in New Orleans. The Bucs and Saints meet again Monday night in Tampa. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)Read moreChris Graythen / Getty Images

Just how awful is the NFC South this season? Exactly half of the NFL’s 32 teams — including the entire NFC East and AFC East — entered Week 13 with a better record than the four tenants living in the NFC South.

Not only are the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints under .500, but they’re a combined 18-30 SU, including 11-23 outside the division.

So we’re going to step out on a limb and predict that the Saints vs. Bucs clash that caps Week 13 won’t end up being a candidate for Monday Night Football Game of the Year.

We’re also going to step out on a limb and forecast that New Orleans and Tampa Bay won’t be lighting up the scoreboard.

Here’s our Saints vs. Bucs prediction for Monday Night Football.

Note: Odds updated as of 2 a.m. ET on Dec. 4.

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Saints vs. Bucs prediction: Pick

  1. Under 41.5 points (at FanDuel)

Saints vs. Bucs prediction: Analysis

At this point, we wouldn’t bet on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Tom Brady’s money.

Since opening the season with consecutive spread-covering victories, Tampa Bay is 3-6 SU and an NFL-worst 1-7-1 ATS.

The only time the Bucs have cashed since Week 2? A 21-16 victory over Seattle as a 2.5-point favorite in Germany. So they’re 0-7-1 ATS on U.S. soil since Week 2.

» READ MORE: Week 14 NFL lines: Eagles open as sizable favorites vs. Giants

Yes, Week 2 was a 20-10 win in New Orleans as a 2.5-point road underdog. But that game was tied 3-3 midway through the fourth quarter. And the last of the Bucs’ two touchdowns came on a 68-yard interception return.

So why not grab the points with the Saints on Monday night? Because they’re unbettable right now, too.

New Orleans is 3-8 SU since a season-opening 27-26 come-from-behind victory at Atlanta. And its 4-8 ATS mark was tied for the fourth worst in the league entering this week.

So we’re targeting the Under on Monday night, for multiple reasons.

Not only did the Week 2 contest fall nearly two touchdowns short of the 43.5-point total, but the teams each produced a single field goal in the first 52½ minutes of “action”.

Tampa finished with just 260 total yards of offense, and the Saints (308) weren’t much better.

And let’s not forget what happened when these rivals squared off in Tampa Bay last December: New Orleans kicked three field goals in a 9-0 win.

The Saints come into Monday on a 4-1 Under run. Final scores in those games: 24-0 (vs. Raiders), 27-13 (vs. Baltimore), 20-10 (at Pittsburgh), 27-20 (vs. Rams) 13-0 (at San Francisco).

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is 9-2 to the Under this season. And if not for a garbage-time touchdown with 49 seconds to play in a 27-22 loss to Baltimore in Week 8, the Bucs would be on a 7-0 Under streak.

Offensively, Brady and the Bucs have tallied more than 22 points just once (a 41-31 home loss to the Chiefs in Week 3). And Kansas City is one of just three teams to put up more than 20 points on Tampa’s defense. The others: Baltimore and Cleveland (23-17 overtime home win last week).

The Bucs came into Week 13 ranked ninth in total defense (315.2 yards per game allowed), fourth in passing defense (192.0 ypg) and sixth in scoring defense (18.5 ppg).

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

New Orleans can’t match those defensive stats. But as noted above, the Saints have been stingy over the past five weeks, yielding just 16 points per contest. At the same time, the offense has been sputtering. Since the shutout victory over Las Vegas, New Orleans has averaged a paltry 253 total yards of offense.

Admittedly, there’s not a ton of wiggle room when you’re dealing with a total of 41.5. Again, though, the Saints and their opponents have topped this number just once in the last five weeks (against Baltimore). And Tampa Bay and its foes have done so just twice all season (against Baltimore and Kansas City).

Also, nearly 43% of all NFL games this season (83 of 194) have ended with 40 or fewer combined points.

So play this one low at FanDuel and look for a final similar to Week 2 — something like 17-14. Which team wins this inevitable snoozefest? We don’t know and don’t care.

Saints vs. Bucs odds (via FanDuel)

  1. Point spread: Saints (+3, -105) @ Bucs (-3, -115)

  2. Moneyline: Saints +146 @ Bucs (-174)

  3. Total: 41.5 points

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