TV: Sunday, 6:40 p.m. on Fox
New Orleans by 3; O/U: 52
Saints 34, Bucs 23. Saints 38, Bucs 3. If you base your pick solely on how the teams’ first two meetings went, it’s a N.O.-brainer. But if you put any stock into the adage of "it’s hard to beat a team twice in one season," well then, it must be difficult to do it three times, right? Especially when that second defeat was such an embarrassing one, on Sunday Night Football, in your own building. You think Tom Brady & Co. weren’t hoping to face the Saints this week? New Orleans’ 21-9 win over Chicago last Sunday was a yawn fest if not for the entertaining Nickelodeon broadcast. Maybe it’s because I’ve been slimed by the Saints the last couple of playoffs, but they just don’t feel like a dominant team to me. If Brady and the Bucs – on a five-game win streak with point totals of 26, 31, 47, 44 and 31 – jump out to an early lead, it wouldn’t surprise me. The Saints have intercepted Brady five times this season, but in a weird way, that makes me want to pick him even more! Brady, the NFL’s all-time passing touchdowns leader with 581, gets the best of the second guy on that list, Drew Brees (571) in an instant classic as Tampa Bay sets up a "Battle of the Bays" NFC Championship Game and moves one step closer to becoming the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium.
The pick: Tampa Bay
The score: Tampa Bay 34, New Orleans 31