Carolina Panthers (4-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4)
The Buccaneers are a talented team, but they have not been able to stay healthy thus far this season. Defensive tackle Chris Baker, outside linebacker Lavonte David, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, cornerback Brent Grimes, and safety TJ Ward have all missed time, while quarterback Jameis Winston was knocked out of their week 6 loss in Arizona with a shoulder injury. They had all of those players back healthy for last week, but Grimes is now injured again, Alexander did not look nearly 100% in his first game back last week, and Winston re-injured his shoulder.
Winston is still expected to play, but he might not be at 100% and might not be able to finish the game if he takes another big hit. They have one of the worst defenses in the league right now thanks to injury, so they need Winston to have a good game if they want to avoid falling to 2-5. Not only are the Panthers a quality opponent (9th in first down rate differential), but Tampa Bay is also in a terrible spot with a trip to the division leading New Orleans Saints on deck, as divisional home favorites are just 24-61 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road favorites. That game could present a major distraction for a banged up team.
The Panthers, meanwhile, are in a great spot because they’re in their second of two road games. Teams are 249-266 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.91 points per game, as opposed to 367-504 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.93 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. It especially helps that the Panthers are underdogs off a loss, as road underdogs in their 2nd of two road games are 115-77 ATS off of a road loss.
That loss came in Chicago last week, but the Bears are an underrated team and the Panthers outperformed the Bears for most of the night, with the Bears only scoring on two return touchdowns and a 70-yard play by running back Tarik Cohen. The Panthers gained 20 first downs, while the Bears gained just 5, but the Bears still won 17-3. The Panthers have a 4-3 record despite a -9 turnover margin and turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so the Panthers are better than their record suggests. I was hoping we’d get some line value with the Panthers in this spot after what happened last week, but the sharps have bet this line down to 1. I’d need a full field goal to put money on the Panthers against the spread, but the money line is worth a small bet as the Panthers should be favored in this game.
Carolina Panthers 19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 Upset Pick +105
Pick against the spread: Carolina +1