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NFL best bets: Third time won’t be charm for Bucs at Saints

It’s been said that cliches are cliches because they are true. But the cliche that “it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season” doesn’t ring true.

Since 1970, teams that have faced a divisional opponent in the playoffs after beating them twice in the regular season are 14-7 in the third matchup (66.7 percent).

The Saints were the last team in that spot in 2018, when they finished a three-game sweep of the Panthers. New Orleans will try to top Tampa Bay for the third time this season Sunday after winning 34-23 and 38-3 in the regular season.

Professional sports bettors Cris Zeniuk and Jeff Whitelaw each like the Saints to cover as 3-point home favorites.

Zeniuk (@lasvegascris) tied for second place in the Circa Sports Million II contest with a 56-28-1 ATS mark (66.7) under the alias DV8-1. He tied for fifth place with his other entry (DV8-2) and tied for second place in the fourth quarter with a 19-5-1 ATS mark for total winnings of $244,444.

“The Saints are my top play and the top team in the NFC in our model. They rank No. 1 in defense and No. 5 in offense,” he said. “They didn’t look that great last week (in a 21-9 win over the Bears). I fully expect a better offensive performance this week.

“This is it for the Saints. Drew Brees likely will retire. There is an urgency with this team that has been dismissed by many. Tampa Bay has received all the attention. The pressure is on them.”

Zeniuk and Whitelaw each pointed out that the Buccaneers are only 1-4 this season against teams with a winning record, with their other losses coming to the Rams and Chiefs. They also lost to the Bears.

“They beat up on teams with a losing record, but when they play good teams, they have not done too well,” Whitelaw said. “They struggled with Washington (in Saturday’s 31-23 win). That was not an easy game for them and it should’ve been.”

Saints-Buccaneers O52

Handicapper Lou Finocchiaro, who went 2-0 ATS on his NFL picks last week in the RJ, likes the game to go over the total, which is at 52 after opening at 50.

Finocchiaro (@GambLou) noted that the Bucs have averaged 34.1 points in their last eight games and the Saints 29.7 ppg in their last seven.

“There are going to be a lot of points in this game,” he said. “Tom Brady laid an egg in the last game against them, only putting up three points. That won’t happen again. This looks like a New Orleans 38, Tampa Bay 30 kind of game.”

Rams-Packers U45½

Finocchiaro also likes Saturday’s Rams-Packers game at Lambeau Field to go under the total, which he played at 46 before it dipped to 45½.

“You’re going to have wind and snow squalls in Green Bay,” he said. “I really think this will be a ball-control game where Green Bay gets out in front and either wins 21-17 or 27-3. The Rams can try to keep it close with their defense and running game.”

CHIEFS (-10) over Browns

Whitelaw also likes Kansas City over Cleveland on Sunday.

“Cleveland lost two offensive linemen and its secondary is depleted. I think Kansas City will blow them out,” he said. “Cleveland is at its best when they have a lead and can run (Nick) Chubb and take time off the clock and use the play-action pass. But without having a lead, which they don’t figure to have, they’ll have a lot of problems.

“And Andy Reid is very, very good off of a bye.”

Including playoffs, Reid’s teams are 24-5 straight-up and 20-9 ATS after a bye.

Rams (+7) over PACKERS

William Hill and BetMGM sportsbooks took sharp action on the Rams (+7) over the Packers. The line was still at 7 at Wynn Las Vegas on Thursday but was at 6½ at every other book.

Zeniuk and Whitelaw each lean to Los Angeles, though Whitelaw took the Rams at +7½.

“I think the number is slightly high. I made it 6,” Whitelaw said. “It’s very tough. You’ve got Jared Goff with a broken thumb and he’s going to be playing in cold weather that could affect his throwing a little bit.

“With that said, the Rams’ defense is probably going to be one of the strongest defenses the Packers have faced.”

Sharps on Ravens

The books also reported sharp action on the Ravens (+2½) over the Bills. The line climbed to 3 at William Hill on Thursday.

Our panel had conflicting picks on that game as Zeniuk likes Buffalo and Finocchiaro is backing Baltimore.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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