A berth in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers will be at stake on Sunday when the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers collide in the 2021 NFL Playoffs. The Saints (13-4) won the NFC South and are coming off a 21-9 Wild Card win over Chicago. The Buccaneers (12-5) finished second in the division and enter the Divisional Round off a 31-23 victory over Washington. The winner will face the top-seeded Packers, who beat the Rams on Saturday, for the right to represent the NFC in the 2021 Super Bowl.
Kickoff is set for 6:40 p.m. ET. New Orleans is a 2.5-point favorite in the latest Saints vs. Buccaneers odds from William Hill Sportsbook, down one from the opener, while the over-under is 53. Before making any Buccaneers vs. Saints picks or NFL predictions, see what SportsLine's Hammerin' Hank Goldberg has to say.
A beloved national treasure, Goldberg enters the Divisional Round on an extended heater: Over the final 10 weeks of the 2019 season and through last week, he is an incredible 48-31-2 on his NFL best bets, a 59 percent cash rate. He's 10-7-2 on his best bets the past six weeks.
Hammer, who has inside sources throughout the league, knows the Saints especially well. In fact, he is a sparkling 20-6 in his last 26 against-the-spread picks involving New Orleans, including a win last week when he picked the Saints (-10) to cover.
This is the same handicapper who enjoyed 15 winning seasons in his 17-year ESPN run. In 2017, Hammer competed against 10 top handicappers in the Las Vegas Review-Journal's NFL Challenge and beat them all, finishing 50-29-6 on NFL picks against-the-spread. Anybody who has followed him is way up.
- Saints vs. Buccaneers spread: New Orleans -2.5
- Saints vs. Buccaneers over-under: 53 points
- Saints vs. Buccaneers money line: New Orleans -145, Tampa Bay +125
- NO: Alvin Kamara ranked second in the league in rushing touchdowns (16) in the regular season
- TB: Tom Brady ranked third in the NFL in passing yards per game (289.6) during the regular season
Why the Saints can cover
New Orleans will get a key member of its pass rush, Trey Hendrickson, back on Sunday. The 26-year-old tied with Aaron Donald for second in the NFL in sacks (13.5) during the regular season, trailing only Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt (15.0), but missed last week's Wild Card victory over the Bears with a neck injury. In the two games against Tampa Bay this season, Hendrickson had three sacks, five quarterback hits, five quarterback hurries and 10 pressures.
In addition, receiver Michael Thomas is quickly being incorporated back into the offense. The 2019 AP Offensive Player of the Year caught just 40 passes in limited action this season after dealing with a lingering ankle injury.
However, in last week's win over Chicago, Thomas had his first receiving touchdown of the season, while his 14.6 yards per catch were his best in a game all season.
Why the Buccaneers can cover
Tampa Bay has embraced receiver Antonio Brown since the team last faced New Orleans. The last game against the Saints, in Week 9, was Brown's debut with the Buccaneers after more than a year away from football, and he had little impact with three catches for 31 yards. However, in the last four games, he has returned to his Pro Bowl form, with 22 catches for 315 yards and five touchdowns. In the regular-season finale, he had 11 receptions for 138 yards and two scores.
In addition, Tampa Bay faces a New Orleans defense that struggled against the run late in the season. In the Saints' last four games of the regular season, they allowed teams to average 5.2 yards per rush and run for six touchdowns. That's a significant drop from the first 12 games, when the team gave up just 3.3 yards per carry and five rushing scores.
How to make Saints vs. Buccaneers picks
Goldberg has analyzed this matchup, and while he's leaning under on the total, he has discovered a critical X-factor that has him jumping all over one side of the spread. He's only sharing it here.
So who wins Buccaneers vs. Saints in the NFL Playoffs 2021? And what critical X-factor makes one side of the spread a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to find out which side of the Saints vs. Buccaneers spread you need to jump on Sunday, all from the expert who is 20-6 on Saints picks, and find out.