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Tampa Bay vs. New Orleans NFL Preview: Week 17 Free Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints NFL Week 17 NFL Gambling & Free Predictions

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Week 17: Buccaneers vs Saints Preview & Pick

Date: Sunday, January 2, 2011
Venue: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Broadcast: FOX
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Betting Lines from Sportsbook.com
Money Line: Buccaneers +305, Saints -370
Spread: Saints -7.5
Over/Under: 46.5
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-6)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers limp toward the 2010 finish line with a ridiculous number of injuries – especially to their defense. Starters like Gerald McCoy, Aqib Talib and Quincy Black, among others, are out for the season. They also lost rookie wideout Arrelious Benn to a knee injury last week.

But all hope still isn’t lost for the Bucs. Mathematically, they’re not quite eliminated from postseason play. Since they face New Orleans in a 1:00 p.m. game, they’ll have plenty to play for. As long as Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount are on the field, Tampa has a shot.

Freeman’s breakout season continued with a five-touchdown effort last week against Seattle. He now has 23 touchdown passes versus six picks on the year; somehow that wasn’t enough to earn him a Pro Bowl nod. Rookie runner Blount has been a revelation for the Bucs, leading the NFL in broken tackles and topping 100 rushing yards in three of his last four starts.

Can Tampa’s “D” hold up this week, however? The Bucs still rank well statistically, clocking in at sixth against the pass, but they haven’t had their depleted secondary tested recently. The Saints will give them a much bigger challenge than the Redskins, Lions and Seahawks did over the last three games.

New Orleans Saints (11-4)

It wasn’t their prettiest effort of the year but the Saints ground out a tough win over Atlanta last Monday at the Georgia Dome, where the Falcons are usually unbeatable. By doing so, New Orleans kept its NFC South title hopes alive. The defending champs have quietly won seven of eight.

Drew Brees hasn’t been perfect – his 21 interceptions are a career high – but he’s still helped New Orleans form the league’s No. 2 passing attack and sixth-ranked offense. Three touchdown passes against Tampa this week would give him a new career high of 35; he threw three earlier this year in a 31-6 rout over the Bucs, who were close to full strength defensively then.

The pick:

As well as Josh Freeman has played this season, he’s had an easy passing schedule. Of the top 10 pass defenses in the league this season, he’s faced just one of them: New Orleans’. The last time Freeman battled the Saints, who have the second-ranked pass “D,” he threw for a ho-hum 219 yards and one score while completing 58.1 per cent of his passes.

Also, Freeman has shown clutch ability for sure but may not have reached big-game status just yet. His five worst starts this year – his five games with a passer rating below 80 – came against New Orleans, Atlanta, Atlanta, Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

I therefore think the Saints can at least keep him in check at home. The Bucs’ “D” is also ripe for the picking. Tampa won’t get totally blown out on Sunday but I like the Saints to cover.

Buccaneers vs Saints prediction: Saints 31, Buccaneers 20

Money Line: Saints -370
Spread: Saints -7.5
Over/Under: OVER 46.5

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About Shea Matthews

Shea Matthews the Senior Writer at CP. Lives and breathes sports. He made the transition from athlete to sports journalist at a young age, writing in TV & national papers. Shea applies his knowledge to sports betting + handicapping daily, and shares winning picks with the world.