Carolina Panthers (0-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)
The Buccaneers lost by double digits in Tom Brady’s debut in New Orleans last week and, as was seemingly the case every time Brady lost in New England over the past half decade, the questions are now swirling about Tom Brady’s long-term ability and even his relationship with his head coach. I think the Buccaneers played a lot better than the final score suggested though, as they actually won the first down rate pretty substantially on the road against the top ranked team in my roster rankings last week in the Saints. The Buccaneers’ +8.18% first down rate differential was actually the 6th highest of the opening week.
The Buccaneers were hurt significantly by a -3 turnover margin and a subsequent defensive touchdown, two things that are totally inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. The average team with a -3 turnover margin has a +0.0 turnover margin the following week and I don’t expect a Tom Brady quarterbacked team to continue turning it over like they’re a Jameis Winston quarterbacked team. I also was especially impressed with how the Buccaneers’ defense held the Saints to a 31.82% first down rate and held Drew Brees to one of his least effective starts in years.
I had many more questions about the Buccaneers’ defense than their offense coming into the season, given that they were one of the worst defenses in the league for a year and a half before some young players came on down the stretch last season, so seeing them continue play well in week 1 of this season against one of the toughest tests in the league is a very good sign for this team’s long-term chances. The offense, which moved the ball well when not turning it over, isn’t the concern on this team.
Speaking of this offense and specifically quarterback Tom Brady, I like betting Brady in this spot, given his track record off of a loss in his career. In New England, Brady was 42-22 ATS off of a loss, frequently silencing critics who prematurely wrote off his team. He has a good chance to do the same thing this week, especially against an easy matchup. I wish we got some extra line value after the Buccaneers loss last week, but even with this line staying put at 8.5, we’re still getting good value with the Buccaneers, as this is a matchup of a top-5 team and a bottom-5 team right now.
I didn’t think much of the Panthers going into the season because, while they have some offensive firepower, their quarterback play and offensive line leave something to be desired, while their defense is arguably the worst in the league. That defense went from bad to worse this week when they lost defensive tackle Kawaan Short, arguably their best defensive player, to an injury. They’ll also be without rookie defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, who was supposed to be a big part of this defensive line rotation. Without those two, this is a very depleted group upfront.
The Buccaneers will be missing wide receiver Chris Godwin, but they’ll get Mike Evans back healthy after he was far less than 100% last week and this team is much better equipped to deal with Godwin’s absence than the Panthers are to deal with Short’s loss. The Buccaneers still have Evans, promising young wide receiver Scotty Miller, and a trio of talented tight ends, while the Panthers are almost entirely devoid of defensive impact players without Short. I have this line calculated at Tampa Bay -12.5, even with no fans in attendance for the Buccaneers’ home opener. This should be an easy win for the Buccaneers and I like them enough to make them my Pick of the Week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38 Carolina Panthers 24
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -8.5
Confidence: Pick of the Week