Updated NFC Playoff Picture: Saints Are New Favorites

The Tampa Bay Bucs entered Week 9 of this NFL season as the betting favorites to win the NFC title for the second time in franchise history, but the Bucs were completely dominated at home Sunday night by the New Orleans Saints, 38-3, and now the Saints are the +300 favorites to win the NFC for the second time in team history.

Playoff Picture | 2020 NFL Expert Analysis

Twelve different Saints caught passes vs. Tampa Bay and five of them caught touchdowns. Three different Saints completed passes! New Orleans swept the season series and moved back into first place by a half-game in the NFC South.

The Saints’ victory was so thorough that former Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston made his 2020 debut as New Orleans’ backup, completing his only pass for 12 yards while running out the clock over the final six minutes.

“It’s been a long time coming, just trying to play a complete game on offense, and I think that’s the most complete game we’ve played,” running back Alvin Kamara said. “You see what it looks like — it’s poetry in motion when we get going like that.”

Because the Seahawks lost in Buffalo, the Saints are now perched atop the NFC. The Saints’ 5-1 conference record serves as the tiebreaker between the teams. They won’t again play a team that currently has a winning record until Week 15 against the Chiefs.

New Orleans should have little trouble this Sunday at home against a 49ers team missing several injured starters.

Green Bay (+425) easily routed the 49ers on Thursday in Week 9. Thursday was the Packers’ first game with multiple takeaways since Week 15, 2019 vs. Bears, ending a streak of 11 straight games (including playoffs) without multiple takeaways.

With four TD passes, Aaron Rodgers has 24 at the halfway point of the season. That ties his own franchise record for most passing TDs in the first eight games of a season. He had the same number at this point in 2011, when he finished with a career-best 45 in 15 games. Even after a home loss to the Vikings in Week 8, the Packers are in excellent shape to win their second consecutive NFC North title.

Seattle (+425) was dominated 44-34 in a loss at Buffalo on Sunday. The Seahawks gave up 420 yards, bringing their season total to 3,228. The only team that has ever allowed more yards in its first eight games is the 2012 Saints, who set and still hold the record for most yards allowed in an NFL season.

Russell Wilson had four turnovers in the loss but still has an excellent MVP résumé. He leads the league in touchdown passes (28), has the league’s second-lowest off-target percentage (11.9%) and ranks second in both adjusted completion percentage (77.5%) and passer rating (117.1). Factor in his rushing value and he is second in the league in expected points added per play. Seattle has a big one this week vs. the Rams.

Tampa Bay (+425) set an unwanted NFL record in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Saints with just five rushing attempts. After calling two run plays in the first quarter, the Bucs would only call two for the rest of the game. Tampa Bay was on track to finish the game with just four rushing attempts, but it ended up reaching five because Blaine Gabbert’s kneel down on the final play of the game counted as a rushing attempt. Before Sunday, the NFL record for fewest carries in a game was six and that had actually been done four times.

Bucs QB Tom Brady looked awful too with three picks and no TDs. It was the worst loss of his Hall of Fame career — the previous low was a 31-0 shutout against the Buffalo Bills in 2003.

“It was shocking. To watch the way we practiced all week and the confidence we had coming in — we have to go back and look in the mirror, coaches, players, everybody,” coach Bruce Arians said, adding, “They kicked our ass in every phase.”

In the Bucs’ six non-prime-time games this year, they have averaged 33.8 points per game, putting up 377.3 yards of total offense and managed to turn the ball over just six times. In their three prime-time games this year, the Bucs scored just 15.7 points per game, put up 292.3 yards of total offense and committed five turnovers.

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