Baltimore Ravens (4-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)
The Buccaneers have lost back-to-back games as big road favorites against last place teams to fall to 3-4 on the season, but they still rank 8th in schedule adjusted efficiency, about 2.5 points above average and, even with some key players missing due to injury, they rank even higher than that in my roster rankings, about 3.5 points above average. On top of that, they return home this week on a short week, which puts them at a significant advantage, with non-divisional home favorites covering the spread at a 63.8% rate on Thursday Night Football.
The Buccaneers are only favored by a point, but they arguably deserve to be favored by more, as it’s hard for a team to go on the road on a short week and play an unfamiliar opponent who is comparable to or better than them. This is also a spot where Tom Brady quarterbacked teams tend to be close to an automatic bet, going 59-30 ATS as underdogs or favorites of less than three in his career. That’s especially true after a loss, with Tom Brady led teams going 36-12 ATS after a loss as long as they are not favored by more than a touchdown. Brady also hasn’t lost three in a row since 2002, going 9-3 ATS after back-to-back losses. Most of this was from his New England days, but the Buccaneers will definitely be the hungrier and more desperate team, which should give them an advantage.
The Buccaneers are missing some key players, including top safety Antoine Winfield and starting cornerback Carlton Davis, but the Ravens have some key injury absences as well, most notably top safety Marcus Williams and top interior defender Calais Campbell, as well as potentially their top pass catcher Mark Andrews, who is very questionable after not practicing all week. The Ravens are still the better team, ranking 3rd in schedule adjusted efficiency, 6.5 points above average, as well as 7 points above average in my roster rankings, even with their current injuries, but the Buccaneers are at a significant advantage as a desperate team at home in a non-divisional game on a short week, so, in a game in which they basically just have to win to cover, I think they are worth betting. This is a small bet for now, but it would become a bigger play if Andrews didn’t play, unless the line moved significantly to compensate.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 Baltimore Ravens 20
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -1