Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)
The Buccaneers are going into a bye here, but that’s not a good thing, as counterintuitive as that might seem. Big home favorites (6+) typically do very well before a bye (59-19 ATS since 2002), but, for whatever reason, small home favorites like the Buccaneers are here do not. Teams who are favored by 1-5.5 points at home going into the bye are just 36-60 ATS over that aforementioned time period. Perhaps it’s that they get caught looking forward. The Buccaneers are one of the worst teams in the league and are already 3 games back of two teams for the division lead (one of who just destroyed them in Tampa Bay) so they might have spent a little bit too much time planning their bye week vacation this week, instead of 100% focusing on their upcoming game.
The Buccaneers have also been awful at home in recent years, again, as counterintuitive as that might seem. Since 2009, they are 14-36 at home, getting outscored by an average of 6.36 points per game, as opposed to 17-33 on the road, getting outscored by an average of 6.12 points per game. On top of that, the Buccaneers are just 15-34 ATS at home over that time period and have already gotten destroyed at home by the Titans and Panthers by 28 and 14 points respectively this season. They also haven’t won at home since week 14 of 2013. For whatever reason, the Buccaneers don’t seem to have any real homefield advantage. As small home favorites before a bye, I don’t expect that to change this week.
The Buccaneers are also just awful in general, as I mentioned earlier. After finishing last season 30th in rate of moving the chains differential, the Buccaneers are dead last right now. The Buccaneers thought they improved themselves this off-season, adding guys like Jameis Winston, Henry Melton, and Bruce Carter, but Winston has struggled mightily as a rookie, Carter has already lost his starting job, and injuries have wreaked havoc on this team, as they are missing cornerback Johnthan Banks, center Evan Smith, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and possibly left guard Logan Mankins with injuries for this one. Meanwhile, top defensive player Gerald McCoy is at less than 100% with a shoulder problem.
The Jaguars aren’t very good either, ranking 30th in rate of moving the chains differential, but they’ve played better than Tampa Bay and they’re getting healthier in a hurry after being plagued with injuries to start the season. Left tackle Luke Joeckel, cornerback Dwayne Gratz, and safety John Cyprien all returned last week, after missing week 2 and week 3 with injury, while tight end Julius Thomas and defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks are expected to make their season debuts this week. It’s not all good on the injury front, as right guard Brandon Linder, their best offensive lineman in 2015, was placed on injured reserve this week, while middle linebacker Paul Posluszny is on the doubtful side of questionable, after not practicing all week, but they’re still the better team here, while this line suggests they’re even. That’s, of course, before you even take into account the Buccaneers’ recent home struggles and the fact that they’re small home favorites before a bye.
The Jaguars are also in a good spot, as road underdogs in their 3rd of 3 road games, off of back-to-back losses. Teams are 20-14 ATS in that spot since 1989, including 19-9 ATS off of back-to-back losses as road underdogs. It’s a small sample size, but road underdogs in their 2nd of 2 road games off of a road loss are 96-58 ATS since 2008, so it makes sense. I like the Jaguars’ chances to win straight up here and I’m pretty confident in them as 3 point underdogs.
Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 Upset Pick +120
Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +3