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Tampa Bay Buccaneers-New Orleans Saints predictions from the Tampa Bay Times staff

Here are our picks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' game against the New Orleans Saints at 4:25 p.m. (Ch. 13) today in the Superdome in New Orleans:

This time, bet on Brees

Martin Fennelly, @mjfennelly: The end of the playoff dream. The Bucs will score points. Jameis will keep his head and his butts in place and the offense will make some points, even without a running game. But the spinning wheel only stops so often on Drew Brees, no touchdowns, 11 points, as it did in Tampa. It's hard to beat any division opponent twice in three weeks. Prediction: New Orleans 31-30.

Can the offense keep up?

Tom Jones, @tomwjones: Just can't see the Bucs shutting down Brees two games in a row. The Bucs will need offense to win this game. With the offense struggling, I just don't see them putting up the 30-some points it's going to take to win this game. Prediction: New Orleans 31-23.

Go with the desperate team

Rick Stroud, @NFLStroud: This shapes up to be a high-scoring game for the Saints, who have center Max Unger and receiver Michael Thomas back. But the Bucs' playoff hopes are on the line, and they should be the more desperate and focused team. Tampa Bay 27-24.

Saints defense is suspect

Greg Auman, @gregauman: This is what was expected from the first Bucs-Saints game. Bucs defense surely can't duplicate its dominance against Brees, but the Tampa Bay offense can play so much better, especially against a Saints defense that just gave up 41 points. Bucs will be aware of just how much is on the line here and should look like the more motivated team. Prediction: Tampa Bay 38-35.

This will be a different Saints team

Thomas Bassinger, @tometrics: Sometimes you catch teams at the right time. In a 16-11 win over the Saints two weeks ago, the Bucs generated a strong interior rush and forced Brees into uncharacteristic mistakes. New Orleans, however, was missing All-Pro center Max Unger and rookie receiver Michael Thomas (the team leader in targets through the first 12 weeks). Coincidence? Prediction: New Orleans 27-23.

Don't expect a Dallas hangover

Ernest Hooper, @hoop4you: Welcome to the biggest game of the year. The Bucs must win to maintain a legitimate chance of making the playoffs. They just beat the Saints two weeks ago, but to replicate the win they have to remove any lingering effects of the Dallas hangover. That starts with Winston, who must keep his composure and show he's ready for the game's biggest stage. Tampa Bay also must ignore the fact that it hasn't swept the Saints in nine years. At the end of the day, I think we'll say Winston and the Bucs learned valuable lessons from the Dallas loss and properly applied them in a victory against New Orleans. Prediction: Tampa Bay 17-14.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers-New Orleans Saints predictions from the Tampa Bay Times staff 12/23/16 [Last modified: Friday, December 23, 2016 9:12pm]
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