Saints overwhelmingly picked to beat the Bucs

On paper, the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear evenly matched. Both teams feature Hall of Fame-bound quarterbacks in Drew Brees and Tom Brady, who are commanding impressive offenses stocked with top-shelf receiving duos (Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, if healthy) and game-breaking pass catchers like Alvin Kamara and Rob Gronkowski. Fireworks are to be expected.

But experts around the NFL’s orbit forecast more of a one-sided beatdown. Expert picks surveyed by NFL Pickwatch overwhelmingly favor the Saints, with 86% of the football cognoscenti weighing in for the black and gold. Just 14% of experts are giving the Buccaneers a shot.

There are reasons to think the Saints run away with this one. They’ve returned rare continuity from the last few years, when they won 13 games in each of the last two seasons. Their coaching staff is unchanged, and many of their 22 starters remain in place. They won’t have to adjust to new teammates or a new scheme and quarterback. In such an unusual year marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, that might mean a world of difference.

But the experts have been wrong before. We saw it back in January when only 3% of the experts surveyed picked the Minnesota Vikings, who upset the Saints in the playoffs. So maybe don’t let this one sway your decision too far one way or the other.