Free NFL Pick: Tampa Bay at New Orleans 01-02-2011

January 2, 2011

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

Sunday January 2nd, 2011 1:00 PM EST

Line: New Orleans -9

Overview:

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of the biggest surprises in the entire NFL. Here we are in Week 17 and the Bucs are still alive. They play in what could easily be considered the toughest division in football and have encountered a series of injuries to their already brutally youthful roster. With their playoff hopes alive still, we will see the Bucs’ best effort on Sunday.

The New Orleans Saints have a chance to overtake the Falcons this week for the division championship. For that reason, the Saints will be playing to their maximum potential as well. The Saints could be on the road for Wild Card week. The drop off is huge and Sean Payton knows just how useful the extra week can be.

Keys to the Game:

  • Drew Brees hasn’t seen any less attempts since his running backs reentered the lineup. Brees is still flirting with attempts nearing the 50 mark and the Saints are a pass first offense. While Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas help out in the passing game, it appeared as though their return would take some of the heat off of Brees. Apparently that isn’t the case at all. Brees throws his fair share of interceptions –ranking second in the league this season with 21– which points to the fact that the Saints are a one dimensional football team. Reggie Bush needs to be as effective as he was last post season if the Saints want to repeat.
  • Josh Freeman completed over 80% of his passes and threw for five touchdowns last week, in a performance that produced no interceptions. He was absolutely flawless and showed just how good he has the potential to be. It is clear that the Bucs have their quarterback of the future. Unfortunately, that success may be short lived, as he faces the second best pass defense in the NFL this week. In a perfect world, the Bucs would be able to keep Freeman’s attempts at around 20 and run the ball effectively all game long.

Key Matchup:

LeGarrette Blount Vs. Saints run defense

  • Can LeGarrette Blount be as effective as Tampa Bay needs him to be this week? He has had three 100 yard games in his last four outings and is becoming one of the most coveted, young, physical backs in the league. The Saints are a middle of the road team at stopping the run, so the easiest way for the Bucs to move the ball is going to be on the ground. For whatever reason, the Bucs usually limit his carries to below 20. That can’t be the case this week. Jonathan Vilma will lead a Saints defense who knows just how big of a role Blount plays.

Wrap Up:

I’m certainly in the minority with this pick, but I’m going with the Buccaneers. They are banged up and they haven’t beaten a team worth mentioning all season long. Last time they played, the Bucs were dominated at home. I don’t know if the Bucs are going to win outright, but they certainly are going to keep it close in this must win game on Sunday.

Free NFL Pick: Tampa Bay +9


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