Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2021 NFC Divisional Round Pick

Los Angeles Rams (12-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)

These two teams met in Los Angeles back in week 3, with the Rams pulling the home upset as 1.5-point underdogs, but this game is in Tampa Bay and the Rams regular season win actually works against their chances of covering this spread. In total, teams are 46-59 ATS in a rematch in the post-season against a non-divisional opponent who they beat in the regular season, including 5-12 ATS as underdogs after previously winning as underdogs.

These teams are not the same as they were in week 3, as the Buccaneers lost starting wide receivers Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin, starting running back Leonard Fournette is legitimately questionable, and starting offensive linemen Tristan Wirfs and Ryan Jensen figure to be limited, while the Rams added talented edge defender Von Miller and wide receiver Odell Beckham, but lost key wide receiver Robert Woods, stud left tackle Andrew Whitworth, and starting safeties Jordan Fuller and Taylor Rapp. All of that more or less evens out, with the Buccaneers holding a 2-point edge in my roster rankings and being favored by 4 points on my calculated line, after being the slightly better of these two teams in the regular season.

Given that, we are getting some line value with the Buccaneers as just 2.5-point home favorites, as the public seems to be paying more attention to Tampa Bay’s injuries and not as much to the Rams’ injuries, while putting too much stock into the result of the week 3 matchup between these two teams. Tom Brady has also been close to automatic in his career in tough games like this where all he has to do to cover is win, going 57-27 ATS in his career as an underdogs or favorite of less than three points, including 10-3 ATS in the post-season. I wouldn’t like the Buccaneers as much at 3, but they’re bettable at 2.5.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 Los Angeles Rams 24

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -2.5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2021 NFC Wild Card Round Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)

The Eagles were blown out last week at home against the Cowboys, but they barely tried in a game which meant very little to them, resting several key players ahead of the post-season. Even with that big loss factored in though, the Eagles still rank significantly better in schedule adjusted efficiency than you would expect based on their record, as they rank 10th, 15th, 15th, and 8th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency.

They have mostly beaten up on bad teams, going 9-1 against sub .500 opponents, with seven wins by double digits, but no wins against teams with a record better than .500 in seven tries, including a 0-6 record against playoff qualifiers. However, a closer look at those losses paints somewhat of a brighter picture for their chances of covering against the spread this week though, as one of the losses was last week when they didn’t try, while two of the losses came early in the season when their offensive line was not healthy, and, in their other three losses, just one came by more than one score, very relevant with this line at 8.5.

One of those one score losses was against these Buccaneers, a 6-point loss in Philadelphia. That game actually works against the argument for the Eagles covering this game though, as the Buccaneers won the first down rate (4.00%) and yards per play battle (0.93) by significant margins in a game in Philadelphia. One matchup between two teams doesn’t necessarily predict every matchup between those two teams, even with similar personnel, and my calculated line based on season long play is Tampa Bay -7, which gives us some line value with the Eagles, but with the Eagles’ poor track record against good teams this season and the fact that blowouts also tend to be more common in the first round of the blowout (about 4% more games are decided by double digits than the regular season), it’s hard to be confident in Philadelphia at all. 

On top of that, both teams have significant players who are legitimately questionable, linebacker Lavonte David and running back Leonard Fournette for the Buccaneers and edge defender Josh Sweat and right guard Josh Herbig for the Eagles and, depending on which of those players are active, the Buccaneers could easily become the right side. Either way, I don’t see myself betting on either side and, for now, this is a no confidence pick on the Eagles.

Update: Fournette is out for the Buccaneers, but more importantly, David is in, while Herbig and Sweat are out for the Eagles. Despite that, this line has dropped all the way to seven for some reason. I am flipping my pick to the Buccaneers, albeit still for a no confidence pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 Philadelphia Eagles 23

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -7

Confidence: None

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2021 Week 18 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (5-11) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)

This line, favoring the Buccaneers only by 8.5 points at home over the Panthers, suggests that the odds makers aren’t sure if the Buccaneers will play their starters for this whole game, but I think it’s likely that they do, given that they will want to secure the #2 seed in the NFC, which will get them at least two home playoff games, as well potential NFC Championship homefield advantage if the #1 seed loses in the second round. Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians has also said they aren’t resting anyone and resting in the final week of the season has never been something Tom Brady has done in his career, even when there has been nothing to play for, so I am not sure why this line is at 8.5, down from 16.5 on the early line a week ago.

The Buccaneers are still going to be short-handed, missing stud wide receiver Chris Godwin, their two best running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones, their two best edge defenders Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, and their top linebacker Lavonte David, but they should still be favored by more than 8.5 points against the Panthers, who are 12.5-point underdogs on my calculated line. The Panthers got off to a 3-0 start, but, in large part due to injuries, have lost 11 of their last 13 games and are one of the worst teams in the league.

The Panthers’ offense bottomed out without feature back Christian McCaffrey and talented center Matt Paradis, while their defense is not as good as it was earlier in this season due to all of the cornerbacks they are missing with injuries, most notably top cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was acquired to replace the injured Jaycee Horn, who is joined on injured reserve by fellow expected starters Donte Jackson and AJ Bouye. This line is underpriced, so the Buccaneers are worth a bet this week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26 Carolina Panthers 13

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -8.5

Confidence: Medium

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4) at New York Jets (4-11)

There is obviously a big talent gap between these two teams, but this line, favoring the Buccaneers by 13 points on the road, is too high, given all that the Buccaneers are missing right now. At the very least, they will be without talented wide receiver Chris Godwin, starting running back Leonard Fournette, top linebacker Lavonte David, and their top two edge defenders Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, while their other two talented wide receivers Antonio Brown and Mike Evans are both legitimately questionable, as are their top safety Antoine Winfield and their top cornerback Jamel Dean. 

The Jets are not healthy either, missing their top three wide receivers Jamison Crowder, Elijah Moore, and Corey Davis and talented center Connor McGovern, while top cornerback Bryce Hall and top interior defender Quinnen Williams both legitimately questionable, but even in the worst case scenario for the Jets and the best case scenario for the Buccaneers, I have the Buccaneers favored by 12 points, so we’re getting line value with the Jets regardless. Even in the best case scenario for the Jets and the worst case for the Buccaneers, my calculated line is still 9, so I don’t know if I see myself betting on the Jets in any scenario, but they should be the better side for pick ‘em purposes.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 New York Jets 20

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +13

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4) at Carolina Panthers (5-9)

The Buccaneers shockingly lost to the Saints as 11-point home favorites last week, but they won both the first down rate and yards per play battle in a game that likely would have gone the other way had the Buccaneers not lost the turnover battle by two, which is not a predictive metric, and, for all of the Saints’ offensive issues, they have arguably the best defense in the league right now, so the Buccaneers’ loss and their offensive struggles aren’t that concerning. Teams also tend to cover after a big upset loss like that, covering at a 57.4% rate after a loss as favorites of 10 points or more, as teams tend to be much more focused as a result of the embarrassment and also tend to be undervalued.

Tom Brady’s record of success after a loss is also well-documented, as he hardly loses back-to-back games. The problem is that, while Brady is close to an automatic cover off of a loss as long as he isn’t favored by too much, going 36-11 ATS as underdogs of favorites of seven points or fewer, that doesn’t hold up when he’s favored by more than seven points, going 11-13 ATS, and the Buccaneers are favored by 10 points in this matchup in Carolina. 

On top of that, the Buccaneers are missing a lot of key players in this game that will make it even tougher to cover this high spread, as they will be without two of their top three wide receivers, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, their top running back Leonard Fournette, and two of their best defensive players, linebacker Lavonte David and safety Antoine Winfield. The Panthers are a trainwreck on offense, missing their top offensive player Christian McCaffrey and several offensive line starters, and dealing with the league’s worst quarterback situation, but their defense is still playing at a high level and can keep this game relatively competitive. I’m still taking the Buccaneers for pick ‘em purposes, but I can’t be confident in them at all.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 Carolina Panthers 13

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -10

Confidence: None

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2021 Week 15 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (6-7) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3)

The Saints have arguably been the most affected team in the league by injuries. Not only have they had a high volume of players miss time, but many of those players have been in and out of the lineup, making them very inconsistent week-to-week. The Saints’ offense bounced back from a rough prior stretch last week, in the return of feature back Alvin Kamara and stud left tackle Terron Armstead, but that also came against a Jets team with arguably the worst defense in the league and Armstead will be back on the sidelines this week

Armstead will be joining fellow talented tackle Ryan Ramcyzk on the sidelines, meaning the Saints will be down three starting offensive linemen total again, including left guard Andrus Peat, who got hurt earlier this year. Even though they will have Kamara this time around, missing those three offensive linemen has proven to be a very difficult situation for this offense this year. Along with Peat, the Saints have also been without top wide receiver Michael Thomas and starting quarterback Jameis Winston for an extended period of time and, as of last week, they are also without talented wide receiver Deonte Harris due to a suspension, leaving an offense that already ranks just 23rd in schedule adjusted efficiency in pretty rough shape.

On the other hand, however, their defense might be as complete as it’s been all season, as they have dealt with numerous absences, most notably on the defensive line. They still are not 100% on the defensive line, but the players they are missing are rotational/role players and with defensive end Cameron Jordan returning from a one-game COVID absence, the Saints will have their talented trio of David Onyemata, Cameron Jordan, and Marcus Davenport together for just the 5th game this season. Despite their injuries, the Saints still rank 4th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency and, with the aforementioned trio together again and the talent they have behind them as well, it’s arguable this defense is the best in the league.

Given that, I think they are a little undervalued as 11-point road underdogs in Tampa Bay, despite their offensive issues. The Buccaneers are arguably the best team in the league, even without their top cornerback Jamel Dean, who will miss this game due to injury, but I still only have them calculated as 9.5-point favorites over a Saints team that is more competent than they are being given credit for. There isn’t enough here for the Saints to be worth betting, but I like them for pick ‘em purposes.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28 New Orleans Saints 19

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +11

Confidence: Low

Buffalo Bills at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2021 Week 14 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (7-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3)

The Bills are 7-5 and their point differential is even better than that, ranking 2nd in the NFL at +140, as all seven of their wins have come by at least 15 points. However, they have faced arguably the easiest schedule in the league and have mostly beaten up on bad teams, which hasn’t translated to opponents with a .500 or better record, against whom they are 1-4. Blowout wins, even against bad opponents, are more predictive than close losses, of which the Bills have 4, making up all but one of their losses, but it’s hard to ignore that the Bills haven’t performed at a high level against capable opponents, especially now that they are heading into a matchup with the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay and doing so without their top cornerback Tre’Davious White, who went down for the season two weeks ago.

Defending Super Bowl Champions, the Buccaneers once again look like a top contender, sitting at 9-3, despite having some key injury absences, many of which have since returned, putting them in strong position for the stretch run. They are still without wide receiver Antonio Brown and they are down to their third string safety, but they have gotten starting cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting back from extended absences, as well as stud tight end Rob Gronkowski, while talented nose tackle Vita Vea and key offensive lineman Ali Marpet have returned from shorter absences. I still think the Bills are one of the better teams in the league, but the Buccaneers are on another level and, here at home, I have them favored by 5.5 points over the Bills in my calculated line.

The Buccaneers are currently favored by 3.5, which doesn’t given us a ton of line value, but there is a very good chance this line goes down to a field goal before gametime, in which case the Buccaneers would be an intriguing bet, as just 8% of games are decided by two points or fewer, as opposed to 16% of games being decided by exactly a field goal. In the scenario where the Buccaneers became field goal favorites, they would basically just have to win to ensure at least a push and I expect them to beat the Bills relatively easily, as the Bills again prove overmatched against tougher competition, going into Tampa Bay and facing a Buccaneers team that hasn’t lost at home since week 12 of 2020.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33 Buffalo Bills 27

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -3.5

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3) at Atlanta Falcons (5-6)

The Falcons’ 5-6 record isn’t bad, but all of their wins have come by one score against among the worst teams in the league, while many of their losses have been blowouts, with four of six coming by 23 points or more, giving them a -103 point differential that ranks 5th worst in the NFL. Efficiency ratings show them to be among the worst teams in the league as well, as they rank 28th, 22nd, 31st, and 31st in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency respectively.

In normal circumstances, I would expect the Buccaneers to blow the Falcons out and they easily could. The 8-3 Buccaneers are one of the top teams in the league, ranking 2nd, 9th, 24th, and 2nd in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency respectively, and, while they are not quite 100%, with players like Antonio Brown, Mike Edwards, and Jordan Whitehead out, they are healthier than they have been, with players like Vita Vea, Ali Marpet, Rob Gronkowski, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Carlton Davis returning to the lineup in recent weeks, with Marpet and Davis making their returns this week.

However, these are not normal circumstances, as the Buccaneers could easily be looking forward to next week’s matchup with the Bills, which lead to them not giving their best effort in this matchup against the inferior Falcons. Add in the fact that this line has jumped to 11 from 9.5 a week ago, as the Buccaneers have gotten healthier, and we’re just not getting enough line value to take the Buccaneers with any sort of confidence, as my calculated line has Tampa Bay favored by 12. They are still the pick for pick ‘em purposes because of their sheer talent edge, but it’s not hard to see how they could overlook their opponent and make this game tougher than it otherwise should be.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 Atlanta Falcons 15

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -11

Confidence: None

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Indianapolis Colts: 2021 Week 12 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) at Indianapolis Colts (6-5)

The Colts are getting some hype after last week’s upset win in Buffalo, a blowout victory on the road against a team that was previously seen by many as the best team in the AFC, and it’s not hard to understand why. In addition to last week’s big win, the Colts have also won six of their past eight games, since an injury plagued 0-3 start, with their two losses both coming in overtime against likely playoff teams in the Titans and Ravens. They also have another one-score loss against a likely playoff team from earlier in the season, when they lost to the Rams by a field goal, and overall, they haven’t lost by double digits since week one.

However, that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. For one, even with those aforementioned games against the Titans, Ravens, Rams, and Bills, the Colts have still faced one of the easiest schedules in the league, with four of their six wins coming against the Jets, Texans, Jaguars, and Dolphins, who are all among the worst teams in the league. They have also had unsustainable success in the turnover margin, leading the league by a wide margin at +15, in large part due to their easy schedule. 

Turnover margin is one of the least predictive metrics in the league and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which are based on more predictive metrics like first down rate and turnover margin, the Colts rank 11th, 26th, 5th on offense, defense, and special teams respectively and 15th in overall mixed efficiency. The Colts are better than that on offense with quarterback Carson Wentz over the early season injuries that limited him, their two best offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith back from injury, and starting wide receiver TY Hilton back as well, but they still aren’t quite the contender that the public seems to think they are.

The Colts schedule continues to be tougher this week with the Buccaneers coming to town and, even if turnover margins were somewhat predictive, it would be hard to see the Colts having the same sort of success in the turnover battle in this matchup against the Buccaneers as they did in matchups against the worst teams in the league. The Buccaneers have a +5 turnover margin on the year, but, more importantly, they also rank 2nd, 8th, 23rd, and 1st in offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency respectively. The Buccaneers are also in a good spot, coming off of a Monday Night Football win by 20+ points, a spot in which teams cover at a 59.9% rate all-time, while the Colts could be a little flat after playing their best game of the season last week and winning in Buffalo in upset fashion.

I am going to be picking the Buccaneers for pick ‘em purposes regardless, but depending on the status of some of Tampa Bay’s questionable players, I may end up betting on them. The Buccaneers will be without guard Ali Marpet, one of the best players in the league at his position, which will be a big absence, but their defense could get defensive tackle Vita Vea back from a one-game absence and cornerback Carlton Davis back from a 6-game absence, which would more than offset the loss of Marpet on offense. For now, I am leaving this as a low confidence pick, but if there is good injury news and the line stays put, I will update this pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 Indianapolis Colts 24

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -3

Confidence: Low

New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

New York Giants (3-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)

The Buccaneers are coming off of a loss last week, which has typically been a great spot to bet on a Tom Brady led team, as he is 47-24 ATS off of a loss in his career. However, that drops to 10-13 ATS when Brady is favored by a touchdown or more and the Buccaneers are 11-point favorites in this one. We saw the Buccaneers not cover in a similar spot last week, favored by 9.5 points in Washington, after a loss in their previous game to the Saints, ultimately losing their second straight game in an unfocused performance. 

I thought the Buccaneers would still be able to win big last week because they were coming off of a bye, a great spot for big road favorites, and facing a mediocre Washington team who had significant injury absences and previously had only beaten bad teams by one score, but the Buccaneers proved to be overvalued as big favorites. This week, I think that is even more the case, as the Buccaneers’ loss last week only pushed them down from 12.5-point favorites on the early line last week to 11-point favorites this week, against an underrated Giants team that looks to be a lot healthier coming out of their bye week.

The Giants are just 3-6, but three of their losses came by three points or fewer, while one of their big blowout losses came in Dallas in a game in which the Giants were tied with the Cowboys when quarterback Daniel Jones got hurt. The Giants’ point differential of -37 is better than their record suggests and, when you factor in their tough schedule, the Giants rank 19th, 11th, and 9th in offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency. Their offense should be better going forward too, as they are getting much healthier on that side of the ball. 

They are still without wide receiver Sterling Shepard, but wide receivers Kadarius Toney (1 game missed), Kenny Golladay (3 games), and Darius Slayton (3 games) all missed significant time and have since returned to be the starters, as has tight end Evan Engram (2 games), while feature back Saquon Barkley (4 games) and top offensive lineman Andrew Thomas (4 games) are also expected back this week. Quarterback Daniel Jones is an underrated player who should perform better with more talent around him, so the Giants could easily be an underrated team the rest of the way if they can stay healthy on offense, with complementary units on defense and special teams.

The Buccaneers, meanwhile, continue to have injury issues. They’ll get top tight end Rob Gronkowski back, but he remains a perpetual injury risk, while talented wide receiver Antonio Brown and top cornerback Carlton Davis remain out and will be joined by top defensive lineman Vita Vea, who will miss his first game of the season this year. The Buccaneers are still one of the more talented teams in the league and I am hesitant to bet against them with Tom Brady coming off of back-to-back losses, back at home where they have been better this season, but this game could still prove to be tougher than expected for the Buccaneers, even if they are ultimately likely to pull out the victory and avoid a third straight loss.

My calculated line has Tampa Bay favored by 9 points, so we’re getting line value with the Giants at +11, and I think there is something to the fact that Tom Brady has failed to cover in all seven night games he has played with the Buccaneers, as Brady is used to going to bed early and may get more tired than most would in a night game, as a result. There isn’t quite enough here with the Giants to bet on them, but it’s possible that changes depending on what I hear about certain injury situations and how close to 100% certain players are. If I decide to place a bet on the Giants, I will give an update.

Update: All of the expected active players are active for the Giants, including Saquon Barkley and Andrew Thomas, and none of expected to be limited in a significant way. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are confirmed to be without both Vita Vea and Antonio Brown, while tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to be limited in his first game back. This was all expected, but there was always a chance something went different. Despite that, this line has moved up to 11.5, so I like the Giants for a small wager. They would be 6-3 if not for a trio of losses by a field goal or less and, with a solid defense and special teams, they could have easily won all of those games with a better offense. They should have that this week, arguably as healthy on that side of the ball as they have been since the start of the season. The Buccaneers are not good enough with their current injuries to be favored by double digits against a decent Giants team, with my calculated line now at Tampa Bay -8, before even taking into account that Brady has struggled in night games recently.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +11.5

Confidence: Medium