Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) at Carolina Panthers (0-1)
Both of these teams lost week 1, but it’s clear there’s a wide talent gap between these two teams. The Panthers loss came against a likely playoff team in the Rams and it was a game that easily could have in a number of different ways. The final margin of victory was just three points and the Rams got the recovery on all four fumbles that occured in the game. The Panthers were the better team in first down rate (37.50% vs. 34.72%) and easily could have been the better team on the scoreboard if the ball had bounced differently.
The Buccaneers, meanwhile, lost by two touchdowns at home against a so-so 49ers team in a game in which starting quarterback Jameis Winston looked awful. Winston threw three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, against a team that intercepted just two passes all last season. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent tough to predict, but Winston has been the most turnover prone quarterback in the league over the past 5 seasons.
The Buccaneers’ defense is unlikely to be good this season, so any projections for an improved Buccaneers team this season have to include an improved Jameis Winston under center. If Winston continues to struggle, this is likely a bottom-5 team. The Panthers, who look like a playoff contender on paper, shouldn’t have much trouble with them at home in Carolina. I have this line calculated at Carolina -10, so we’re getting enough value with the Panthers for a small bet on them.
Carolina Panthers 31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
Pick against the spread: Carolina -7