Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8) at Arizona Cardinals (4-10)

The Cardinals were at the top of my overrated teams list coming into the season. They went 11-6 last season, but needed a +12 turnover margin to get to that record, which is not predictive, and they ranked just 14th in overall efficiency, barely above average. They also got a lot worse this off-season, losing starting wide receiver Christian Kirk, top edge defender Chandler Jones, top off ball linebacker Jordan Hicks, top cornerback Robert Alford, and their most efficient running back Chase Edmonds, with their only major addition being former Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown, who cost the Cardinals their first round pick in a trade and who isn’t a significant upgrade on Christian Kirk.

Things have been even worse than I expected because of all of the Cardinals injuries. They have had a bunch of players in and out of the lineup all season and right now are without starting quarterback Kyler Murray, backup quarterback Colt McCoy, arguably their three best offensive linemen DJ Humphries, Justin Pugh, and Rodney Hudson, talented tight end Zach Ertz, #3 receiver Rondale Moore, starting interior defender Zach Allen, and top cornerback Byron Murphy. Not surprisingly, their quarterback injuries are their biggest concern, as third string quarterback Trace McSorley will be making his first career start this week, after struggling mightily in limited relief work thus far in his career.

All that being said, I think we are getting some line value with them, as this line has shot up to favor the visiting Buccaneers by 7.5 points. The Buccaneers have their own injury concerns, expected to be without starting left tackle Donovan Smith, top edge defender Shaq Barrett and his replacement Carl Nassib, top cornerback Jamel Dean, top safety Antoine Winfield, and top interior defender Vita Vea and, as a result, my calculated line has them favored by just 6 points here in Arizona. I have no desire to bet on an unproven third string quarterback unless I’m getting significant line value, but I would take the Cardinals for pick ‘em purposes.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 Arizona Cardinals 14

Pick against the spread: Arizona +7.5

Confidence: Low

Cincinnati Bengals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)

Historically, this would be a spot where a Tom Brady led team would be an automatic bet, as he 46-13 ATS all-time against a team with a better record than this, 60-32 ATS all-time as an underdog or favorite of less than three, and 36-14 ATS after a loss when not favored by a touchdown or more. However, Tom Brady has not played at the same level in his age 45 season this year and the Buccaneers don’t have a great roster around them, so we’re not getting any line value with them as 3.5-point home underdogs against the surging Bengals, who have eight wins by four points or more. 

If I were to bet on the Buccaneers, it would almost be a pure bet on a spot and I’m not sure if that justifies a bet anymore at this point in Brady’s career. I might still bet on the Buccaneers if they get both Antoine Winfield and Tristan Wirfs back from injury, as they are a different team when those two key players are in the lineup, but they are both considered legitimately questionable, so this is a low confidence pick for now. Depending on the final injury report and where this line ends up, I may update this pick.

Cincinnati Bengals 26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +3.5

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers: 2022 Week 14 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6) at San Francisco 49ers (8-4)

The 49ers lost quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the season last week and are now starting 7th round rookie Brock Purdy, set to make the first start of his career this week, but, despite that, this line has only dropped from favoring the 49ers by 6.5 last week on the early line to favoring them by 3.5 points this week, which is a relatively insignificant line movement, especially when you consider that the 49ers could be without stud edge defender Nick Bosa, who seems likely to be limited even if he can play, after not practicing all week. This line is also still bigger than you might realize, when you consider that 1 in 4 games are decided by three points or fewer, including 1 in 6 games decided by exactly a field goal. 

On top of that, the 49ers are in a tough spot, having to turn around and play a key divisional game against the Seahawks next Thursday on a short week, with favorites covering at just a 43.3% rate all-time before Thursday Night Football. The Buccaneers aren’t in good shape injury wise either, missing top edge defender Shaq Barrett, starting safeties Antoine Winfield and Mike Edwards, and stud right tackle Tristan Wirfs, but those players have all been out for multiple weeks now, so they wouldn’t affect the line movement in this game. My calculated line barely favors the 49ers, doing so by just 1.5 points, so we’re still getting enough line value with the Buccaneers for them to be worth a small bet this week.

San Francisco 49ers 19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +3.5

Confidence: Medium

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2022 Week 13 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (4-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6)

The Saints are just 4-8, but they’ve played better than their record suggests, ranking 15th in schedule adjusted efficiency. Their biggest problem has been the turnover margin, with a league worst -14, but turnover margins tend to be highly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. In fact, when a team faces an opponent with a turnover margin that is at least 15 points better than theirs (-14 vs. +2 for Tampa Bay), the team with the significantly worse turnover margin entering the game covers the spread at a 54.1% rate.

The Saints are also getting healthier, after being among the most injury affected teams in the league to begin the season. They still remain without top wide receiver Michael Thomas (9 games missed) and talented starting center Erik McCoy (3 games missed), but feature back Alvin Kamara (2 games missed), starting wide receivers Jarvis Landry (5 games missed) and Chris Olave (1 game missed), starting offensive linemen Andrus Peat (4 games missed) and James Hurst (1 game missed), stud edge defenders Cameron Jordan (1 game missed) and Marcus Davenport (2 games missed), as well as talented safety Marcus Maye (4 games missed) have all missed time this season and have since returned, while talented linebacker Pete Werner (3 games missed) and top cornerback Marshon Lattimore (7 games missed) could also return this week.

The Buccaneers, meanwhile, seem to be going in the opposite direction injury wise, missing stud right tackle Tristan Wirfs for the first time this season, while their defense remains without top edge defender Shaq Barrett and will likely also be without their two starting safeties Mike Edwards and Antoine Winfield, which is especially a big deal because the latter is one of the best players in the league at his position. My roster rankings have the Buccaneers just a half point better than the Saints, given the current state of both teams, meaning they should be no more than field goal favorites in this game, if not favorites of less than a field goal.

This line is only 3.5, which might not seem like a big deal, but with 1 in 4 games decided by 3 points or fewer and 1 in 6 games decided by 3 points exactly, getting this line on the other side of three is very significant, especially since the Buccaneers probably deserve to be favored by less than a field goal. I see this being a relatively close game, even if the Buccaneers can win, with the two most likely outcomes being either team winning by exactly a field goal, both of which would cover this spread, so the Saints are worth a bet at +3.5.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19 New Orleans Saints 17

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +3.5

Confidence: Medium

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cleveland Browns: 2022 Week 12 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) at Cleveland Browns (3-7)

Typically significant road favorites cover at a high rate after a bye week, covering the spread 63.0% of the time as favorites of more than a field goal. At first glance, that would seem to apply to this game, with the Buccaneers favored by 3.5 points, but I don’t think the Buccaneers deserve to be favored by this much. The Browns are just 3-7, but four of their seven losses have come by three points or fewer, which would cover this spread, meaning they would have covered this spread in seven of their ten games this season, including four of their five home games.

Given that, this line seems too high. The Buccaneers have been better in recent weeks and they’re better overall than their 5-5 record suggests, ranking 10th in schedule adjusted efficiency, about two points above average, but this isn’t the same Buccaneers team that we’ve seen in the past couple years, so they shouldn’t be favored by more than a field goal on the road against a competent team that is regularly competitive even in their losses.

If the Buccaneers weren’t coming off of a bye, the Browns would be my Pick of the Week, but, even with the Buccaneers being well-rested, we’re getting enough line value with the Browns for them to be worth a big bet, as my calculated line has this as a pick ‘em. The money line at +150 is also worth a bet, as the Browns should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game straight up. Even if they don’t pull the upset, about 1 in 4 games are decided by three points or fewer, so we have a good cushion.

Cleveland Browns 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +3.5

Confidence: High

Seattle Seahawks vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2022 Week 10 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (6-3) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) in Munich

Typically the rule of thumb in international games is to take the favorite, who covers at a 61.9% rate historically, as the better team tends to be better suited to play in a weird situation like an overseas game. However, in this circumstance, the team favored by 2.5 points, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, actually seems like the lesser of these two teams. The Buccaneers have more name recognition, but the Seahawks have two more wins and it hasn’t been a fluke, as they rank 10th in schedule adjusted efficiency, about three points above average, which is in line with where they rank in my roster rankings. 

The Buccaneers, meanwhile, are just two points above average in schedule adjusted efficiency (11th in the NFL) and, due to injuries, they are only a point and a half above average in my roster rankings, suggesting the Seahawks are the ones who should be favored by a couple points. There isn’t enough here for the Seahawks to be worth betting unless we are getting a full field goal with them and I don’t love going against Tom Brady in this situation (45-12 ATS in his career against teams with a better record than his, 59-31 ATS as underdogs of favorites of fewer than three), but the Seahawks still seem like the right side for pick ‘em purposes and there is some value with the money line at +125, as the Seahawks should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game.

Seattle Seahawks 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Seattle +2.5

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2022 Week 9 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (3-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5)

This is a matchup of the previous two Super Bowl winners and a rematch of a divisional round game from a year ago when the eventual champion Rams barely got the best of the Buccaneers, in a matchup between a 12-win Rams team and a 13-win Buccaneers team. However, going into this matchup, both teams have disappointed significantly this season, with both teams sitting below .500, the Rams at 3-4 and the Buccaneers at 3-5.

The Buccaneers got off to a 2-0 start, but their offense has been middling at best all season, ranking 21st in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, while their dominant defense that lead them to their first two victories has not been nearly as good since, in large part due to key injury absences, which will continue this week, with stud safety Antoine Winfield and top edge defender Shaq Barrett out for this game, among others. The Buccaneers offense is probably better than they’ve played so far, but they’re not the same in the receiving corps and on the offensive line as they’ve been in recent years and quarterback Tom Brady is starting to show his age, even if only a little bit, with a less impressive supporting cast.

The Rams, on the other hand, have been middling on both sides of the ball for most of the season, falling from 9th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency in 2021 to 16th this season and falling from 9th to 12th on defense. Their offensive problems largely stem from the off-season losses of wide receiver Odell Beckham and offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and Austin Corbett, but they’ve also had further injuries on the offensive line that have made things worse. On defense, their dropoff has not been as pronounced, as they do seem to be feeling the effects of losing top edge defender Von Miller this off-season.

Overall, I have both teams about even in my roster rankings, which makes this a tough call. I have the Buccaneers as slightly better and this line favoring them by a field goal is what you would expect when a home team is slightly better than the road team, but my numbers have the Rams slightly more likely to cover at this number than the Buccaneers, so I am taking them for pick ‘em purposes. There’s obviously not nearly enough here to bet on either side though and a push might be the most likely outcome, given that the most likely outcome when two evenly matched teams play is the home team winning by a field goal.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 Los Angeles Rams 20

Pick against the spread: LA Rams +3

Confidence: None

Baltimore Ravens at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2022 Week 8 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: Medium

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers: 2022 Week 7 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: None

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2022 Week 6 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4)

The Steelers were blown out last week in Buffalo, losing the first down rate battle by 6.42% and the yards per play battle by 5.17 in a 38-3 defeat. That normally is a good thing for their chances of covering the spread this week though, as teams tend to bounce back after a blowout loss, covering the spread at a 58.4% rate after a loss by 35 points or more, with teams tending to be underrated, overlooked, and embarrassed in that spot. 

We did see this line move from favoring the Buccaneers by 6.5 points on the early line to now favoring the Buccaneers by 9.5, but that’s not necessarily an overreaction to the Steelers getting blown out last week, as the Steelers are have significant injury concerns in their secondary now, with talented safety Minkah Fitzpatrick out, as well as their top-3 cornerbacks, Ahkello Witherspoon, Cameron Sutton, and Levi Wallace. This is on a defense that is already far from its best without top edge defender TJ Watt.

Given all of the Steelers’ injuries, my calculated line has the Buccaneers favored by 11 points. That may seem high, but the Buccaneers are one of the best teams in the league, while the Steelers have had a propensity to get blown out in recent years, with 10 of their 17 losses coming by double digits, including playoffs. There’s not nearly enough line value with the Buccaneers to take them confidently given that the Steelers are in the better spot, but the Buccaneers should still be the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -9.5

Confidence: None