Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) at Carolina Panthers (5-2)
The Buccaneers have had a crazy season under center. With regular starter Jameis Winston suspended for the first 3 games of the season for an off-the-field violation, they started veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and watched him carry them to victories against the Saints and Eagles, a pair of 2017 division winners. He then struggled in a week 3 loss to the Steelers, but initially kept the job over Winston when he returned week 4, before getting benched midway through a week 4 blowout loss in Chicago.
Winston then started the next three games, with mixed results, and was ultimately benched for Fitzpatrick midway through last week’s loss in Cincinnati, a game in which Fitzpatrick led them back from down 18, only to watch his defense allow a game winning field goal at the other end with time expiring. Fitzpatrick will remain the starter this week and could potentially start for the rest of the season. Winston’s 20.992 million dollar salary for 2019 becomes guaranteed if he gets injured, so they may be hesitant to play him as long as Fitzpatrick plays reasonably well.
Fitzpatrick has been the better of the two all in all this season and, while he’s always had turnover issues, the Buccaneers have so much talent in the receiving corps that the gunslinging Fitzpatrick is likely to continue to put up big yardage numbers. The Buccaneers also get a boost on defense this week, getting both defensive end Vinny Curry and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy back from two game absences. Even with them out there, they have defensive issues, but they will obviously be welcome re-additions to this defensive line.
They face a tough opponent this week in Carolina, but they’ve been competitive in tough games in recent years and 10 of their 15 losses over the past couple of seasons have come by 6 points or fewer (relevant considering this line is 6.5). The Panthers are also in a tough spot because they have to turn around and play another game in Pittsburgh in 4 days on Thursday Night Football. Favorites are just 49-71 ATS since 2012 before Thursday Night Football and favorites of 6+ in general are 31-59 ATS since 2008 before being underdogs of 6+ (Pittsburgh -6.5 is the early line). I’d like the Buccaneers more if we were getting a full touchdown, but they should be able to keep this one close against a team that might not give its best effort in a look ahead spot.
Carolina Panthers 34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +6.5