Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) at Detroit Lions (6-4)
The Buccaneers may just be 2-8, but they are better than their record. Before the season, I said they had 7 of the top-200 players in the NFL (Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, Dashon Goldson, Darrelle Revis, Gerald McCoy, Doug Martin, and Lavonte David). Doug Martin is out for the season, Carl Nicks is out indefinitely, and Dashon Goldson will miss this game with a suspension, but that still leaves 4 top level players, who have all lived up to their billing, five if you include breakout right tackle DeMar Dotson. Among those players, Gerald McCoy and Darrelle Revis are both playing at an All-Pro level and you could maybe say the same thing for Lavonte David.
Now that Mike Glennon has settled in and is playing decent football, this team is no pushover. They’ve won their last 2 games, including a home game against the Falcons last week that was a huge blowout for most of the game before garbage time. The Falcons aren’t very good obviously, but blowing out anyone is impressive. The Buccaneers are 1-4 in games decent by a touchdown or less and their point differential is only at -50, which is comparable to several 4-6 and 5-5 teams. This is despite facing a pretty tough schedule.
In terms of DVOA, they are 17th, while their opponent here, the Lions, are just 15th. The Buccaneers rank 25th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving them at a 72% rate, as opposed to 76% for their opponents, while the Lions rank 12th, moving them at a 77% rate, as opposed to 75% for their opponent. We’re getting way too many points with the Buccaneers at +9.5.
The Lions could also be in a look ahead spot with a Thanksgiving game against the Packers coming up next week. Teams are 27-50 ATS since 2008 as favorites before a Thursday Night Game, including 11-26 ATS before a divisional Thursday Night Game. We saw the Colts and Titans both fall flat in a huge way in this situation 2 weeks ago and the Saints had their first non-cover at home under Sean Payton since 2010 last week in this scenario, snapping a streak of 13 straight covers.
The Lions could especially be looking ahead because it’s such an important divisional game, it’s a Thanksgiving game (where they haven’t had success recently), and it’s against a Green Bay team that they have been pretty much unable to beat for a good decade. They have some demons to exercise next week and a good chance of doing so with Aaron Rodgers’ status unclear. That could really trip them up this week. The only reason this isn’t a significant play is because the Buccaneers have to go to Carolina next week and teams are 34-69 ATS before being double digit underdogs since 2010. They too could be distracted. They should still be the right side though.
Detroit Lions 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
Pick against spread: Tampa Bay +9.5