NFL Picks: Saints vs. Buccaneers in Week 2

Jason Lake

Thursday, September 12, 2013 7:02 PM GMT

Only one team in the NFC South beat the football odds in Week 1, and it was the New Orleans Saints. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers? They’d rather forget last Sunday.

Read our NFL Week 2 Opening Odds Report for a breakdown of this week's games!

Is anyone surprised by the New Orleans Saints? Of course they looked more like their old selves in last week’s 23-17 victory over the visiting Atlanta Falcons (+3.5 on the NFL lines), with QB Drew Brees throwing for 357 yards and safety Roman Harper sealing the game with an interception in the fourth quarter. That’s what happens when you get to work with all your coaches. Stupid Bountygate.

Sunday’s events in Jersey were a lot more surprising. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one of this year’s sleeper picks in the packed NFC South, gift-wrapped an 18-17 victory for the New York Jets with a silly late hit on the second-to-last play. Those 15 yards were enough to put Ryan Lindell in field-goal range. Kick is good from 48 yards, Jets win, Jets win.

Abandon Ship?

That was an especially bad beat for those of us who had Tampa Bay as a 1.5-point road chalk instead of –4 at the close of the NFL odds. But never mind the result – and as a general rule, you shouldn’t judge your sports betting acumen by the final score. The problem with Sunday’s game was that the Jets were competitive at all. The Buccaneers finished the day with 13 penalties for 102 yards. They gave up a safety in the first quarter on a bad snap deep in their own end. They punted the ball on 4th-and-4 from the Jets 39. Credit the Gang Green defense for doing its job, but this was Tampa Bay’s game to both win and cover, and neither happened.

So is it time to get off this boat? That depends on what other people are doing, and it looks like the NFL betting marketplace has already made up its mind. Our consensus reports show over 70 percent support for the Saints as 3.5-point road favorites in Sunday’s matchup (4:05 p.m. ET, FOX). However, take a closer look at those football odds. They’ve hardly moved an inch since the open, and those that have moved, have edged toward Saints –3.

Big Easy Money

Seems like the sharps still have some faith in Tampa Bay. Or perhaps it has more to do with fading the public. The Saints may have value as a rebound candidate from 2012, but this remains a very public team, and with New Orleans beating the defending NFC South champions in Week 1, people are once again lining up at the ticket window.

Yeah, but it was only the Falcons. I made a fair bit of money on them last year, riding their small market and their impressive defense as they started the season 8-0 SU and 6-2 ATS. However, that was the end of the money trail; Atlanta went 6-4 SU and 3-6-1 ATS afterward, including the playoffs, and just about everyone with half a handicapping brain has the Falcons pegged as fade candidates in 2013.

Sailing the Efficiency

The advanced stats for Week 1 agree: New Orleans was pretty average last week, finishing No. 15 overall (No. 11 offense, No. 16 defense, No. 18 special teams). Tampa Bay was only two sports back at No. 17 (No. 30 offense, No. 4 defense, No. 1 special teams). Defense and special teams? Smells like a value play brewing.

The trick with these Week 1 efficiency numbers, other than the small sample size, is that they don’t take into account the strength of opposition. The rankings I mentioned are per the DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) numbers at Football Outsiders, and they don’t start adjusting for opponents until Week 4 is in the books. That means Tampa Bay’s offense should perform better than No. 30 this week against the Saints defense. It could hardly do worse.

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NFL Pick: Take the Buccaneers +3.5 (–115) at 5Dimes

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