Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8) at Carolina Panthers (8-3)
At first glance, Carolina definitely seems like the right side here. Tampa Bay’s fluky win in Detroit last week moved this line 2.5 points, from 11 to 8.5, from last week to this week. That’s significant. The reason I call Tampa Bay’s win in Detroit last week fluky is because they won the turnover battle by 5. That’s really inconsistent on a week to week basis. In fact, teams who have a turnover margin of +5 in a game have an average turnover margin of +0.0 the following week. Going off of that, the Buccaneers scored 24 points despite just 10 first downs. Teams are 16-34 ATS since 1989 off of a game in which they scored 21+ points despite 10 or fewer first downs.
It’s very clear now that the Buccaneers are better than their 0-8 start would have suggested. They have two All-Pro caliber players in Darrelle Revis and Gerald McCoy and another borderline All-Pro in Lavonte David, so, ever since Mike Glennon took over under center, they’ve been no pushover. However, I don’t feel like they’re underrated like they used to be anymore thanks to last week’s win. This line is much smaller than I expected, to the point where I think we’re getting line value with the Panthers.
The Buccaneers are moving the chains at a 72% rate, as opposed to 76% for their opponents, which ranks 25th in the NFL. The Panthers, meanwhile, are 2nd, moving them at a 79% rate, as opposed to 70% for their opponents. That suggests this line should be around 12, right around where it was last week, rather than 8.5 like it is now. In spite of that, the public is actually all over Tampa Bay. I love fading the public, especially when they’re on an underdog. On top of that, the Panthers are 5-0 as 6+ point favorites in since 2011, winning those 5 games by an average of 20.0 points per game. They’ve always done a good job of blowing out bad teams in the Cam Newton/Ron Rivera era, including blowing out Tampa Bay 31-13 a few weeks back.
However, there are some really strong situational trends holding the Panthers back. They have to go to New Orleans next week, while Tampa Bay only has to host the Bills. Divisional home favorites are just 18-51 ATS before being divisional road dogs since 2002, which is one of the most powerful trends out there. As for the Buccaneers, divisional road underdogs are 103-71 ATS before being non-divisional home favorites. Combining those two together sort of, home favorites are 52-86 ATS before being road dogs when their opponent will next be home favorites. The Buccaneers will almost definitely be much more focused for this game than the Panthers. I’m not going against an 18-51 ATS trend, but I’m not confident in Tampa Bay at all.
Carolina Panthers 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
Pick against spread: Tampa Bay +8.5