Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) at Denver Broncos (0-2)
Several teams have been decimated by injuries early this season and the Broncos are certainly one of them. It started when they lost their best defensive player Von Miller for the year to a freak injury on the eve of the season and since then the Broncos have also lost starting middle linebacker Mark Barron, top cornerback AJ Bouye, starting defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones, top wide receiver Courtland Sutton, key running back Phillip Lindsay, and starting quarterback Drew Lock. The Broncos will turn to career backup Jeff Driskel this week (how much does John Elway want his Jeff Driskel over Cam Newton decision back?), with an inexperienced receiving corps, and an undermanned defense. They currently rank 27th in my roster rankings and they’re only even that high because there are other undermanned teams behind them.
This week, the Broncos host a Tampa Bay team that has mostly avoided the injury bug and is actually healthier now than they’ve been in either of their first two games, with both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin expected to be healthy together for the first time this season. The Buccaneers lost their season opener in New Orleans, but that was largely due to a -3 turnover margin, which tends to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, and they’ve actually won the first down rate battle in each of their first two games, giving them a 4th ranked +6.68% first down rate differential on the season. It’s very early, but that’s in line with their level of talent and what I would have expected for this team going into the season, especially if they can continue avoiding major injuries.
Despite that, the Buccaneers are weirdly only 5-point favorites this week in Denver. Let’s say the Broncos get two points for their diminished homefield advantage, that would mean the Buccaneers are only a touchdown better than this banged up Broncos team on a neutral field. This line only shifted from -3.5 last week on the early line (4 is not a key number), despite the injuries to Lock and Sutton. I have this line calculated at Tampa Bay -10.5, so we’re getting significant line value with the visitors, who should be able to come in and win by multiple scores. This is one of my two top plays this week, but there’s one I like a little more for Pick of the Week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 Denver Broncos 13
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -5