Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-11) at Carolina Panthers (4-8-1)
Cam Newton is out for this one with a back injury suffered in a car accident this week. That caused this line to move from 5 to 3.5 with Derek Anderson coming in to make his 2nd start of the season. That’s not nearly enough of a line movement to compensate. Sure, Newton hasn’t been at his best this season, dealing with a variety of nagging injuries, but he’s still lead this offense to a solid 73.44% rate in 12 starts this season, despite having limited talent around him on the offensive line, in the receiving corps, and at the running back position. The defense, which allows opponents to move the chains at a 74.82% rate, is a much bigger part of the reason why this team is 4-8-1.
Sure, Anderson beat these Buccaneers in Tampa Bay earlier this season, but that’s not much of an accomplishment, as the Buccaneers are 14-31-1 ATS at home since 2009 (14-32 straight up), as opposed to 26-20-1 ATS (16-31 straight up) on the road. This season has essentially followed that same pattern as they are winless at home in 6 games (1-5 ATS), but 4-3 ATS (2-5 straight up) on the road. Just because Anderson won a close game in Tampa Bay earlier this season doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily win again here in Carolina, especially with Greg Hardy no longer on the field. And even if he does win, this line gives us some breathing room with the Buccaneers.
That win earlier this season by the Panthers actually puts them in a bad spot this week. Divisional home favorites are 25-49 ATS since 2002 against a divisional opponent that they previously beat as road underdogs during that same regular season. It’s a weird trend and it’s a little complicated, but it makes sense when you think about it. In divisional matchups where the homefield advantage decides who is the favorite, generally those two teams are essentially even. Divisional opponents that are essentially even generally split the season series. That seems to happen even if the road team pulls the upset in the first matchup, as the road underdog wins about half the time (39-38) in the rematch and covers at that aforementioned 2/3rds rate. The Anderson lead Panthers and the Buccaneers are essentially even and there’s a good chance the Buccaneers get their revenge this week.
The Panthers were already in a bad spot coming off of a huge upset win in New Orleans last week as teams are 48-70 ATS since 1989 off of an upset win as 10+ point underdogs, including 25-40 ATS off a divisional upset win as 10+ point underdogs. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are in a good spot in their 2nd straight road game. Teams are 111-76 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 94-54 ATS when it’s their 2nd straight (and not 3rd straight) road game and they next play a home game. Historically, teams cover at about a 65% rate in that situation. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 182-195 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.32 points per game, as opposed to 269-385 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.28 points per game.
The only reason this isn’t a bigger play is because the Buccaneers have a very tough game against the Packers in Tampa Bay on deck next week. Teams are 60-94 ATS since 2012 before being 3+ point home underdogs, including 31-65 ATS before being 4+ point home underdogs, 9-24 ATS before being 7+ point home underdogs, and 1-7 ATS before being 10+ point home underdogs (the early line in Green Bay -10.5). That’s because when you have a game coming up like that it generally means one of two things. One, you have a very tough, important game coming up. Two, you really aren’t that good of a football team. Here, I think it’s both. However, the Panthers aren’t very good either and there’s enough stuff here to be confident in the Buccaneers as long as the line is a field goal or more.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 Carolina Panthers 16 Upset Pick +145
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +3.5