Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) at Carolina Panthers (1-5)
Tom Brady led teams typically bounce back well after a loss and the Buccaneers lost last week in Pittsburgh, but Brady’s ATS record after a loss is significantly better when he’s not a heavy favorite, going 36-12 ATS when not favored by more than a touchdown, but just 11-14 ATS as favorites of more than a touchdown. This week, the Buccaneers are whopping 13 point favorites in Carolina, so Brady’s track record after a loss probably won’t be as relevant to the Buccaneers’ chances of covering this spread.
That being said, this line is somewhat justifiable, given how bad the Panthers are right now. They actually have a solid defense, ranking 10th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency, but offensive performance is significantly more predictive week-to-week than defensive performance and their offense is the worst in the league by a significant margin, leading to the Panthers ranking dead last in overall schedule adjusted efficiency, despite a decent defense.
Things will get even worse on offense this week for the Panthers, starting 4th string quarterback PJ Walker for the second straight week, only this time without by far their best offensive player, Christian McCaffrey, who the rebuilding Panthers sent to the 49ers in a mid-week trade this week. Even the Panthers’ defense could have significant problems this week, with key injuries piling up, losing talented safety Jeremy Chinn back in week 3 and now being without talented interior defender Matt Ioannidis, who will miss his first game of the season this week.
The Buccaneers’ offense has been underwhelming this season, ranking 17th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, but they are more talented than that on paper and they are significantly healthier now than they were earlier in the season, while their defense ranks 1st in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency by a wide margin, leading to the Buccaneers ranking 4th in schedule adjusted overall efficiency. That’s is more or less in line with where they rank in my roster rankings, in which they have a 14-point edge over the Panthers.
That 14-point gap does suggest that the Buccaneers are a little overvalued as 13-point road favorites though, even if slightly. The Buccaneers are also in somewhat of a tough spot with a much tougher game on deck against the Ravens, which happens to be on a short week on Thursday Night Football. Favorites cover at just a 42.6% rate all-time before Thursday Night Football and the fact that the Buccaneers will face a tough opponent next week hurts their chances of covering this week even more, as favorites of more than a touchdown cover at just a 43.6% rate before facing an opponent whose winning percentage will be 40% higher than their current opponent, which could easily be the case here.
The Buccaneers will likely be very focused to start this game after being embarrassed last week, but they may take their foot off the gas with a big lead in the second half, which could allow a Carolina backdoor cover, even if the Buccaneers otherwise dominate this game. That’s not enough for me to take the Panthers with any confidence this week, even getting this many points (somehow the Panthers have covered in just three of their last 20 games and spreads might not have adjusted quite enough yet), but if I had to take a side for pick ‘em purposes, I would side with the Panthers by the slightest of margins.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21 Carolina Panthers 9
Pick against the spread: Carolina +13