Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-6)
The Buccaneers were embarrassed in a 38-3 loss to the Saints last week, losing the first down rate battle by 8.73%. I thought that win was more about the Saints though, as the Saints are arguably the top team in the league on paper when healthy and they showed it in a big way. I was expecting the Saints to come in, give the Buccaneers a game, and at least cover the 4.5-point spread. Obviously a 35-point win goes far beyond giving the Buccaneers a game and a 35-point loss to anyone is a concern for a team, but it’s definitely worth noting that the Buccaneers still rank 2nd in the NFL in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +4.61%, even with that game factored in.
The Buccaneers’ offense gets the attention, but their defense has led the way with a -4.38% first down rate allowed over expected that ranks 2nd in the NFL, while their offense ranks 17th in first down rate over expected at +0.23%. Defenses tend to be more unpredictable on a week-to-week basis than offenses and the Buccaneers’ defense is not quite the same without the injured Vita Vea, but any regression from their defense could be compensated for by an offense that should be better with top wide receiver Chris Godwin healthy after missing four games and free agent signee Antonio Brown working into the mix after his first game back from suspension last week.
It’s also worth noting how well Tom Brady has played after a loss in his career, going 44-22 ATS, including 34-10 ATS when not favored by a touchdown or more and 21-6 ATS after a loss by 10 points or more. There is no precedent for how Brady performs off of a loss by 35 points because he’s never lost by that many points in his career, but it’s safe to say he’ll be fully determined to avoid back-to-back bad outings and that we should get a much better effort from his team this week.
This line didn’t shift as much as I would have hoped, following that blowout loss, with the Buccaneers going from 6.5 point favorites on the early line last week to 5.5 point favorites this week, but I have this line calculated at Tampa Bay -8.5, with the Panthers having minimal fans and homefield advantage for this one, so we’re still getting good line value. I would expect the Buccaneers to bounce back and win this one with relative ease, so they’re a strong bet at 5.5.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 Carolina Panthers 20
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -5.5