Carolina Panthers (3-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6)
The Panthers are much better than their record. Only 4 teams (Denver, Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle) have better point differentials than the Panthers, who are 2nd in the NFL to only Kansas City in points per game allowed. They are moving the chains at an 80% rate, as opposed to 71% for their opponents, a differential is 2nd best in the NFL. They are a few plays away from being 5-1. In terms of DVOA, they are 6th.
That being said, this line would seem to take into account that Carolina is better than their record. The odds makers aren’t stupid. Also, the Buccaneers too are better than their record. They are 0-6, but, with the exception of a loss in New England by 20, all of their games have been relatively close, including 3 losses by a field goal or less and 4 losses by 8 points or less, which is pretty relevant considering the spread is at 6.5. In terms of DVOA, they are ranked 24th and last week they were the highest ranked 0-5 team in DVOA history.
That being said, I like the Panthers for three reasons. One is that they always seem to blow out bad teams and lose close games to decent or better teams. After last week’s 30-15 win over the Rams, they are now 3-0 ATS under Cam Newton as favorites of 6 or more, winning by an average of 19.3 points per game. In 2011, the year the Buccaneers went 4-12, the Panthers beat them twice by an average of 25.5 points per game. I don’t think anyone would be shocked if the Buccaneers went 4-12 again this year.
The Buccaneers did get revenge on the Panthers last year, though, as they were the ones who won both times. Unfortunately, that puts them in a bad situation here. Teams are 110-82 ATS since 1989 as favorites against an opponent who beat them twice the previous season. Normally I ignore the revenge game factor, with a few exceptions, because there is no trend supporting it and because I generally subscribe to the theory that if a team beat you once, it makes it more likely they’ll do it again, not less. That being said, there is a trend supporting this and it makes sense. If you’re favored, that generally means you are better or equal to an opponent and the fact that they beat you previously shouldn’t matter.
Third, Tampa Bay has to go to Seattle next week and they could be really distracted to play against arguably the best team in the NFL on their home turf. Teams are 33-65 ATS since 2010 before being double digit underdogs, including 25-51 ATS as dogs. Meanwhile, teams before being 14+ point underdogs, which the Buccaneers currently are projected to be, are 4-20 ATS in that time period (2-18 ATS as dogs) and 27-50 ATS dating back to 2002. Finally, divisional home dogs are 5-22 ATS since 1989 before being 14+ point dogs. This is a terrible spot for the Buccaneers and I expect another Carolina blowout.
Carolina Panthers 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10
Pick against spread: Carolina -6.5