Los Angeles Chargers (1-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)
The Buccaneers lost week one in New Orleans, but that was primarily due to the Buccaneers having a -3 turnover margin, which is not a predictable week-to-week metric. The Buccaneers actually won the first down rate battle by 8.18% in that game and they have gone on to defeat the Panthers and Broncos by a combined 32 points in the two weeks since. Overall, the Buccaneers rank 2nd in the NFL with a +6.31% first down rate differential.
The Buccaneers haven’t had the toughest schedule, but I had high expectations for them coming into the season and, if anything I’ve been more impressed with them because of how they’ve achieved that 2nd ranked first down rate differential. While their offense has been nothing to write home about, ranking 21st in first down rate at 37.43%, their defense has led the league with a 31.12% first down rate allowed.
Their offense figures to get better as the season goes on, given they have a lot of new parts to integrate, so it’s great to see their defense pick up right where they left off down the stretch last season, when they had the 4th lowest first down rate allowed in the league during the final 8 weeks of the season, in large part due to the development of their young secondary, which had previously struggled mightily. This might not be the best defense in the league all season, or even top-5, but their expected offensive improvement should more than offset that and it’s clear that this is a balanced team that can win a lot of different kinds of games.
This week, the Buccaneers host a banged up Chargers team, which is missing starting cornerback Chris Harris, starting edge defender Melvin Ingram, starting wide receiver Mike Williams, and the right side of their offensive line, guard Trai Turner and right tackle Bryan Bulaga, in addition to stud safety Derwin James, who has been out since training camp. The Buccaneers aren’t at full strength either with Chris Godwin out, but they still have Mike Evans and other weapons and they haven’t had their receiving corps at full strength really all season, so their injury situation isn’t really comparable to the Chargers’ situation, which primarily involves new injuries as of the past week.
I have the Buccaneers 10 points better than the Chargers in their current injury situation, as they are one of the top teams in the league facing off against a team that is in the bottom third without their key absences. Given that, we’re getting a lot of value with the Buccaneers as mere 6.5-point home favorites. This is a team that could easily start to go on a big run and they should be able to win this game by at least a touchdown, if not possibly a lot more. This is my Pick of the Week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 Los Angeles Chargers 10
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -6.5
Confidence: Pick of the Week