Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-2)
Much is being made of the fact that the Chiefs have won 17 of their last 19 regular season games, winning their final 10 regular season games in 2015 and starting this season 7-2. That’s impressive, but the Chiefs have won their last 2 games despite just scoring one offensive touchdown. That’s also impressive, but it’s very unsustainable. They’ve managed just 28 first downs over those 2 games, but have won both games (by just 5 and 3 points respectively) largely as a result of a +5 turnover margin and a +1 return touchdown margin.
That’s largely been the case all season, as they’ve had the best turnover margin in the league (+14) and have also have a +4 return touchdown margin. Unfortunately for them, turnovers tend to be very inconsistent week-to-week and very tough for a team to rely on. Despite their great turnover margin and the 5th easiest schedule in the NFL thus far, just 3 of their 7 wins have come by more than a touchdown. On the season, they rank just 25th in first down rate differential, suggesting that if we assume turnover neutral football for them going forward, they’re going to have far less success in the win/loss column.
The Chiefs also enter this game missing significant players on both sides of the ball. While top pass rusher Justin Houston will make his debut this week after off-season knee surgery, he’s not expected to play anywhere near a full set of snaps. The Chiefs are also still missing defensive end Jaye Howard, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, and will likely be without top cornerback Marcus Peters this week. Given all of their injuries, how close many of their wins have been, and the fact that they’ve scored just one offensive touchdown in 2 weeks, they have no business laying 7 points here at home against the Buccaneers.
The only reason I can’t be confident in Tampa Bay is because they’re in a very tough spot here. They’re coming off of a home upset victory over the Bears and then have to turn around and face the Seahawks next week, a game in which they’re expected to be 6.5 point home underdogs. Teams are 38-90 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 4.5 or more, as huge upcoming home games tend to serve as a distraction for a team. Furthermore, underdogs of 6 or more are 48-76 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6 or more. On top of that, teams are 59-79 ATS off of a home victory as underdogs since 2012. Sandwiched in between a huge home win and a very tough home game, the Buccaneers might not be fully focused for a non-conference opponent this week. That being said, the Chiefs’ offense has struggled so much this season that the Buccaneers could still cover the 7 even if they don’t play their best game. This isn’t a money play, but that could change if the line moves to 7.5 by the morning.
Kansas City Chiefs 20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +7