Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) at Carolina Panthers (1-3)
Both of these two teams enter this game incredibly banged up. The Buccaneers are missing their two top running backs (Doug Martin and Charles Sims), their top two defensive linemen (Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers), and starting defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. The Panthers, meanwhile, are missing starting quarterback Cam Newton, starting running back Jonathan Stewart, starting left tackle Michael Oher and first and second round rookies Vernon Butler and James Bradberry, who were both playing roles on defense.
Cam Newton’s injury is obviously the big one as he’ll miss his first and the Panthers hope his only game with a concussion, after being knocked out in the middle of last week’s loss in Atlanta. With so many missing players, it’s tough to figure out where the line should be, but I’d estimate that Newton missing is worth about 5 points on the line. This line at 5 suggests the Panthers should be favored by around 10 points with a healthy Newton, even without Stewart, Oher, and the others. I think that’s a little high given that Carolina hasn’t played nearly as well this season as last season, missing the presence of Josh Norman on defense immensely and not executing offensively the way they did last year either. I’m going to take the points, especially since about 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer, but Tampa Bay is too banged up for me to be confident in them this week.
Carolina Panthers 23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +5