The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are barely holding on in the NFC playoff race and will need a victory Sunday against the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome to stay alive.
The 6-7 Buccaneers have lost three straight and are now on the outside looking in at a wild card berth. They will need several teams in front of them to falter, and must win out for a shot at the postseason.
Tampa Bay fell below .500 after blowing an 11-point lead with seven minutes remaining to the Philadelphia Eagles last week. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles hit receiver Jeremy Maclin for a one-yard touchdown as time expired.
Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman completed less than 50 percent of his passes for the second straight week, going 14-for-34 for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
Rookie running back Doug Martin continued his stellar play, rushing for 128 yards and a score on 28 carries, and receiver Vincent Jackson had six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.
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The 29-year-old receiver has been an excellent pick up for Tampa Bay, as he’s now seventh in the league with 1,145 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
Jackson and Martin can have yet another big game Sunday, against a New Orleans defense that was pummeled 52-27 against the New York Giants last week.
The Saints gave up 227 return yards to New York’s David Wilson, and four touchdown passes to quarterback Eli Manning.
New Orleans’ Drew Brees struggled, going 26-for-43 for 354 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
The Saints defense suffered another blowback this week, with safety Malcolm Jenkins placed on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury. New Orleans also placed offensive lineman Charles Brown on IR as well.
The game begins at 1 p.m. EDT and will be shown by FOX, or watch a live stream online by purchasing NFL Sunday Ticket Max.
Betting Odds: New Orleans is favored by 3.5 points
Over/Under: 54 points
Prediction: Despite their porous defense, New Orleans' offense is still capable of exploding at any time. This game has the potential to be a major shootout, especially if Freeman can find his accuracy again. Look for New Orleans to pull out a close fourth quarter win.
Predicted Score: New Orleans 37, Tampa Bay 34