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Each week during the NFL season, we'll focus on one underdog with a chance to pull the outright upset. This week, it's easy. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+160) are getting 3.5 points at the New Orleans Saints, which is simply too much value to ignore in Week 1.
If you squint hard enough, you can see an elite team hidden in the mediocrity of last year's 7-9 Bucs squad. The offense had the third-fewest punts and three-and-outs per drive and ranked just outside the top 10 in touchdowns per possession. The defense was even better, ranking sixth in yards allowed per play and fifth in takeaways.
Turnovers ruined it all. Tampa Bay coughed it up on more than a fifth of its possessions last year, undercutting the offense and hamstringing the defense. That'll change with Brady at the helm, giving this team top-five upside on offense and defense.
This is easily the most talented team Brady's had in years, but oddsmakers are giving him points for the first time in 74 regular-season games. That's bad news for New Orleans - Brady is 34-17-1 ATS in his career as an underdog with an incredible 30-22 record straight up.
These two teams are close to equal in the futures betting market, so the Saints are clearly getting a home-field nod here. Is it justified? New Orleans is 7-5 straight up in its last 12 games as a home favorite, and there won't even be fans this time.
Tampa Bay isn't a perfect team, but it's hard to find many faults once you remove the turnover albatross around its neck. This is also the perfect time to fade the Saints, who have lost seven of their last nine season openers.
The safer bet is to take +3.5 against a New Orleans team that thrives in close games. The gutsier play is to gun for the upset. In this case, a deliberate approach from Brady will be all the Bucs need to maximize their roster talent and win outright.
(Odds source: theScore Bet)
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.