NY Times is picking Saints (1 Viewer)

Pa.Saint

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints, 6:40 p.m., Fox

Line: Saints -3 | Total: 52

The oldest starting quarterback left in the A.F.C. playoffs is Baker Mayfield, who doesn’t turn 26 until April. Three of the four starters in that conference were first-round picks in the 2018 draft. By the time any of the four had started a game in the N.F.L., Tom Brady had already won five Super Bowls and Drew Brees was closing in on Dan Marino’s record for career passing yards.

The young players have largely reimagined the quarterback position, using their mobility to empower their passing while contributing to a leaguewide scoring explosion. Yet Brady and Brees, museum-quality examples of a forgotten age of pocket passers, carry on, leading serious Super Bowl contenders in the second week of the playoffs.

In truth, this game shouldn’t be defined just by its famous quarterbacks. Brees’s Saints had plenty of offense this season — running back Alvin Kamara led the N.F.L. with 21 total touchdowns — but relied just as much on the defense, which Dennis Allen, the team’s defensive coordinator, built into a powerhouse.

Tampa Bay has a talented young defense as well — the support on that side of the ball undoubtedly played a role in Brady’s decision to sign there — and in recent weeks, the Buccaneers have started to truly click on offense. The team’s wealth of receiving options — wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown; tight end Rob Gronkowski — powered Brady to his best statistical season since at least 2017 and one of the best of his career.

The regular-season meetings between these teams were laughable. The Saints won both, with a combined score of 72-26. And they are playing at home, which plays a role for them even if the impact is lessened by the tiny crowds that the team is allowed to host. The Buccaneers are a good enough team that they should be respected — in many ways, this feels like a tossup — but the Saints are rightly narrow favorites in what could be the most competitive game of the weekend. Pick: Saints.
 

RJ in Lafayette

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Not sure that the strength of the NYT is its sports section. And as a longtime NYT subscriber and reader, I readily acknowledge that the Times has areas in which to improve and that the Trump years have impacted the paper in both negative and positive ways. But because a New Orleans guy, Dean Baquet, is the paper's executive editor, I thought I would offer another view: In my opinion, the Times, with a news staff of 1,600, remains the greatest newspaper on the planet. In this country, only the WSJ and the Washington Post are even in the conversation, and both have only a fraction of the resources that the Times has.
 

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