saints bucs player props
PHOTO CREDIT: CRAIG DUDEK

Week 15’s installment of Sunday Night Football will pit the New Orleans Saints (6-7) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3) for their second meeting of the season. The Saints won the first go-round, defeating Tom Brady for the third time in three regular season tries since his move to Florida. This game has immense playoff implications for both teams as a loss for New Orleans will likely eliminate them from playoff contention, while a loss for the Bucs will make it nearly impossible to earn the NFC’s top seed and playoff bye.

Let’s take a look at the best Saints vs. Bucs player props picks for this key NFL Week 15 Sunday Night Football matchup.

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Saints vs. Bucs Player Props

Taysom Hill Longest Completion Under 33.5 Yards

This is an absolute head-scratcher, to the point where it almost makes you nervous. But, sometimes a gift is just that and we won’t turn our noses up at this one. Taysom Hill has completed exactly one pass over 30 yards all season and it was to Deonte Harris, who is suspended until Week 17.

It doesn’t help matters that New Orleans only has four guys on the roster with 34 yard receptions or longer in 2021. One is Kevin White, whose only catch of the season was a 38-yarder against the Bucs in the first meeting, the only ball a Saint caught over 18 yards that day. Another is a running back, Mark Ingram, who earned his 34 yard catch when Alvin Kamara was sidelined.

Ingram has also been out of action since last week, finally returning from the reserve/COVID-19 list this Friday, putting his snap count in question for Sunday.

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That means only one wide receiver expected to see significant playing time has a catch in 2021 that would bust this prop. That is Marquez Callaway, who has two such catches this season, but none since October 10, back when Jameis Winston was still under center.

And, Tampa Bay gets a lot of grief for their poor pass defense, ranked 25th in the NFL. However, despite all of those yards allowed through the air, very few of them have come on plays that would ruin this prop selection. In fact, though the Buccaneers have allowed 36 different players to catch a ball for 20 yards or more this season, only four of those have gone for 34 yards or longer. Further, 21 of the 23 passing touchdowns the Bucs have conceded this season were 24 yards long or less.

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Of final note, Taysom Hill is in his fifth NFL season and has just five regular season passes of 34 yards or longer. He is playing against a team out for revenge with a lot to play for in this one. And, he is doing so with a thumb that is less than 100 percent. With the Saints’ playoff lives at stake here, as well, there is nothing saying that Hill plays this entire game, whether due to injury or a quarterback switch due to lack of offensive production with the BYU product under center.

Alvin Kamara Anytime Touchdown Scorer

What a difference Alvin Kamara makes to this Saints team. It’s hardly a coincidence that the team’s five game losing streak overlapped directly with the four games Kamara missed due to injury. New Orleans averaged just 18.3 points per game during that stretch. Then, their feature back returned last week and, lo and behold, the offense posted 30 points behind 344 total yards, earning a victory.

Kamara is the quintessential dual threat running back. He has eight touchdowns this season, four each in the run and passing games. He has scored in five straight games in which he has played, tallying six touchdowns in that stretch. He also has at least one score in seven of his nine games in 2021. As mentioned, New Orleans puts up just 18.3 points per game without Kamara, but scores a solid 25.7 points per game when he is in the lineup.

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Kamara is averaging nearly 20 carries a game to go with four catches, notching a season high 27 totes last week. He should actually be bolstered by Hill under center, as well as Mark Ingram’s return from the COVID-19 list. That may seem counterintuitive, as those guys might take some touches away from Kamara, but against an elite run-stopping defense like Tampa, deception is key and three guys in the backfield who could all end up with the football is difficult to defend. Kamara will always be option one and you have to like his odds to get several quality rushes inside the red zone.

Even if Kamara cannot reach paydirt via the rush, like he was able in the first meeting with Tampa, given that the Bucs’ defense has allowed just five rushing touchdowns by backs this season, there is still a legitimate possibility that he could do so in the passing game. We mentioned Kamara’s four touchdown receptions already, but did you know that Tampa has allowed four receiving scores by backs already this season, just one fewer than they have scored on the ground against them? New Olreans was actually one of the teams to break through against the Bucs in that manner the first time around. When it all shakes out, the Saints will go as Kamara goes and they are not likely to win many games without him factoring into the scoring.

Ronald Jones Anytime Touchdown Scorer

The obvious choice to score from the Tampa Bay backfield is Leonard Fournette, whose 10 touchdowns this season is sixth most amongst all running backs. Fournette has scored six times in the team’s last three games alone, in fact. However, we think he could take a backseat to Ronald Jones in this contest and, thus, love the +275 odds we are finding for Jones to cross the goal line.

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For starters, Fournette has been nursing an ankle injury all week, still listed as questionable to play after a limited practice on Friday. He certainly may go on Sunday night, but is he going to touch the ball 20 or more times again like he has the last three times out? He had 19 rushes in the grueling overtime win last week, his third highest rushing total of the season in a game in which he also posted his season high in rushing yards.

We believe that Bruce Arians is going to begin protecting his key players if and when he can down the regular season stretch. The Bucs surely want the playoff bye, but they also proved last season that they can win playoff games on the road and Fournette was the key to their Super Bowl run. Fournette and Jones could split time more than usual here simply due to Fournette’s ankle, but a blowout for either team would almost guarantee that Jones finishes the game as the main running back on the field.

With that thought in mind, you have to like Jones to have a couple shots to get into the endzone here, as Tampa Bay’s backs have scored eight times in the last four games, the same number they totaled in the team’s first nine outings in 2021.

New Orleans doesn’t concede a ton of touchdowns to backs, allowing just eight all year, but three have come through the air and we know Tom Brady loves to get his backs involved in the passing game. Tampa’s backs have five touchdown catches this season, including one of the three against the Saints, and with Giovani Bernard now on injured reserve, Jones could absorb that pass-catching role in the red zone, as well. Expect an uptick in touches for Jones in this one, enough so to see him sneak into the endz one for a solid return on our investment.

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