Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2016 Week 17 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7)

These two teams met back in week 5 in Carolina, a game that Tampa Bay won in an upset. In this re-match though, I think the Panthers have a decent chance to pull the upset as big underdogs and they should at least keep it close and cover the spread. Comparable divisional rivals tend to split the season series, even if the road team pulls the upset in the first game. Divisional road underdogs are 61-35 ATS since 2002 in same season divisional revenge games against an opponent that previously beat them as home favorites and they also pull the upset and win straight up about half the time.

Despite Tampa Bay’s win in Carolina earlier this year and their two game lead in the standings, these two teams are more or less comparable talentwise, as they are within a percentage point in first down rate differential. The Panthers could easily be 8-7 like the Buccaneers, or better, as they’ve lost 5 games by 3 points or fewer, including their first matchup with Tampa Bay. That was despite the fact that the Panthers didn’t have Cam Newton in that game with a concussion and lost the turnover battle by 4.

Despite not having Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers won the first down rate battle in that game by 11.07%. The Panthers aren’t nearly fully healthy without linebacker Luke Kuechly or center Ryan Kalil, but the Buccaneers have lost #2 wide receiver Vincent Jackson and talented tight end Cameron Brate since their last matchup with Carolina too. No one is near fully healthy at this point in the season. Making matters easier for the Panthers, the Buccaneers haven’t had much homefield advantage in Tampa Bay in recent years, going just 21-39 ATS at home since 2009. I don’t know if the Panthers are going to pull the upset, but they’re my Pick of the Week worth a big bet as anything higher than 4 point underdogs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 Carolina Panthers 23

Pick against the spread: Carolina +6

Confidence: Pick of the Week

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

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

This is a tough one. On one hand, the Saints are the better of these two teams, despite the Buccaneers having a 2 game lead in the standings and winning a close matchup between these two teams in Tampa Bay a couple weeks back. The Saints enter this game with a point differential of +14, as opposed to -9 for the Buccaneers. The Saints actually rank 3rd in the NFL with a +10 offensive touchdown margin, but are just 6-8 as a result of because of a -4 return touchdown differential and 6 losses by 6 points or fewer, including 4 losses by 3 points or fewer. In terms of first down rate differential, the Saints rank 8th, while the Buccaneers rank 24th. Despite that, this line is at 3, suggesting these two teams are equal, so we’re getting some line value with the Saints.

On the other hand, the Saints are in a tough spot with a trip to Atlanta on deck, while the Buccaneers get to host the last place Carolina Panthers. Divisional home favorites are just 23-61 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road favorites. On top of that, favorites are 61-97 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites, which the Buccaneers almost definitely will be next week at home against the Panthers. With another tough game on deck, the Saints could have trouble playing their best, while the Buccaneers should be completely focused.

The Buccaneers are also in a good spot in their second of two road games. Teams are 142-108 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 113-74 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 239-254 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.94 points per game, as opposed to 341-476 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.96 points per game. I’m taking the Saints, but this is a no confidence pick.

New Orleans Saints 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -3

Confidence: None

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys: 2016 Week 15 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) at Dallas Cowboys (11-2)

The Buccaneers are getting a lot of attention right now thanks to a 5-game winning streak that has improved their record to 8-5 and pushed them into a tie for first place in the NFC South with the Atlanta Falcons. As a result of their home victory over the Saints last week, as well as the Cowboys’ close loss in New York to the Giants, this line has shifted from 9.5 in favor of Dallas on the early line to 7 this week. I think that’s an overreaction. Both Tampa Bay’s win and Dallas’ loss were close, as have most of the Buccaneers’ wins on their winning streak. Four of 5 victories have come by single digits. On the season, they still have a negative point differential and they rank just 20th in first down rate differential.

Their defense has led the way over the 5-game winning streak, allowing just 12.8 points per game, but they still rank in the bottom half in first down rate allowed (20th) because their defense was awful to start the season, allowing 37+ points on 3 separate occasions. They’re better now that they’re healthier on the defensive line, I don’t buy that they’re as good as they’ve looked, so I think we’re getting good line value with the Cowboys as 7 point home favorites. Despite a close loss to a good Giants team, they are still arguably the best team in the league and rank 3rd in first down rate differential. This is a no confidence pick though because the Cowboys have no homefield advantage, going 11-27 ATS as home favorites since 2010.

Dallas Cowboys 31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23

Pick against the spread: Dallas -7

Confidence: None

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New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (5-7) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-6)

The Saints are just 5-7, but enter this game 5th in first down rate differential. That’s because, on the season, the Saints have 39 more first downs than their opponents (the 2nd best differential in the league) and 10 more offensive touchdowns than their opponents (tied for the 4th best differential in the league), but are just 5-7 because of because of a -4 margin in return touchdowns and 5 losses by 6 points or fewer (including 4 losses by 3 points or fewer). They had their worst week of the season last week in a 15-point home loss to the Lions, but could easily be 7-5 or 8-4 or even 9-3 right now if a few things had gone their way.

Despite that, the Saints are 3 point underdogs here in Tampa Bay, suggesting these two teams are even. The Buccaneers are 7-5, but rank 25th in first down rate differential. They’re not a bad team and they’re relatively healthy right now, but the Saints are also relatively healthy right now and are definitely the better team in this one, despite what the records say. The Buccaneers have also had a weak homefield advantage in recent years, going 20-39 ATS at home since 2009, including just 2-4 ATS at home this season. The Saints are my Pick of the Week this week.

New Orleans Saints 31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +3

Confidence: Pick of the Week

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) at San Diego Chargers (5-6)

The Buccaneers got an impressive home victory over the Seahawks last week, but teams tend not to cover coming off of a home upset victory, going 60-80 ATS the following week since 2012. Teams tend to be overrated off of a home upset victory, as they happen more often than people realize and are not usually as big of a deal as they seem. In this game, the Buccaneers’ upset victory shifted the line 2 points from 5.5 last week on the early line to 3.5 this week. As a result, we’re getting line value with the hometown Chargers.

Despite having one fewer win than the Buccaneers, the Chargers are a significantly better team, entering this game 6th in first down rate differential, while the Buccaneers enter in 24th. The oddsmakers seem to realize this, making the Chargers 2.5 point favorites in Houston last week against a Texans team that was 6-4 at the time (the Chargers still covered) and originally making them 5.5 point favorites here at home for the Buccaneers, but now they seem to be overrating the Buccaneers as a result of what could easily prove to be a fluky Tampa Bay home victory. I wish this line was all the way down to 3, but I don’t expect that to happen and I have no problem putting money on the Chargers at 3.5. We’re getting good line value with the Chargers either way.

San Diego Chargers 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Pick against the spread: San Diego -3.5

Confidence: Medium

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Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (7-2-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)

The Seahawks have always done very well in the second half of the regular season in the Pete Carroll era (since 2011), going 32-9-1 ATS in games 9-16 since Carroll arrived (including 2-0 ATS so far this season). This has been very noticeable on the stat sheet for Russell Wilson, as he’s completed 66% of his passes for an average of 8.7 YPA, 67 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions in the second half of the regular season in his career. Considering how well this organization is run from top to bottom, it doesn’t surprise me they get better as the season goes on. It also wouldn’t surprise me at all if they went on another second half run. Russell Wilson has shaken off early season injuries and struggles and now is playing the kind of football we’re used to from him.

I’ve made big bets on the Seahawks in back-to-back weeks and I wanted to make another big bet on them this week as 6 point favorites in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers, despite a 5-5 record, rank 26th in first down rate differential. They also haven’t had much homefield advantage in recent years, going just 19-39 ATS at home since 2009, including just 1-4 ATS this season. However, the Seahawks come into this game pretty banged up, which obviously hurts their chances of covering.

Defensive end Michael Bennett, who looked early in the week like he had a shot to return this week, will miss his 5th straight game with injury, while safety Earl Thomas, who injured his hamstring in last week’s win over Philadelphia, has also been ruled out. Those are two of their best defensive players. On the offensive side of the ball, the Seahawks will be without center Justin Britt, who has been their best offensive lineman this season. As long as the line is under 7, it’s still worth a bet on Seattle, but this would have been a bigger play if the Seahawks were healthier.

Seattle Seahawks 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Pick against the spread: Seattle -6

Confidence: Medium

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Kansas City Chiefs: 2016 Week 11 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-2)

Much is being made of the fact that the Chiefs have won 17 of their last 19 regular season games, winning their final 10 regular season games in 2015 and starting this season 7-2. That’s impressive, but the Chiefs have won their last 2 games despite just scoring one offensive touchdown. That’s also impressive, but it’s very unsustainable. They’ve managed just 28 first downs over those 2 games, but have won both games (by just 5 and 3 points respectively) largely as a result of a +5 turnover margin and a +1 return touchdown margin.

That’s largely been the case all season, as they’ve had the best turnover margin in the league (+14) and have also have a +4 return touchdown margin. Unfortunately for them, turnovers tend to be very inconsistent week-to-week and very tough for a team to rely on. Despite their great turnover margin and the 5th easiest schedule in the NFL thus far, just 3 of their 7 wins have come by more than a touchdown. On the season, they rank just 25th in first down rate differential, suggesting that if we assume turnover neutral football for them going forward, they’re going to have far less success in the win/loss column.

The Chiefs also enter this game missing significant players on both sides of the ball. While top pass rusher Justin Houston will make his debut this week after off-season knee surgery, he’s not expected to play anywhere near a full set of snaps. The Chiefs are also still missing defensive end Jaye Howard, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, and will likely be without top cornerback Marcus Peters this week. Given all of their injuries, how close many of their wins have been, and the fact that they’ve scored just one offensive touchdown in 2 weeks, they have no business laying 7 points here at home against the Buccaneers.

The only reason I can’t be confident in Tampa Bay is because they’re in a very tough spot here. They’re coming off of a home upset victory over the Bears and then have to turn around and face the Seahawks next week, a game in which they’re expected to be 6.5 point home underdogs. Teams are 38-90 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 4.5 or more, as huge upcoming home games tend to serve as a distraction for a team. Furthermore, underdogs of 6 or more are 48-76 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6 or more. On top of that, teams are 59-79 ATS off of a home victory as underdogs since 2012. Sandwiched in between a huge home win and a very tough home game, the Buccaneers might not be fully focused for a non-conference opponent this week. That being said, the Chiefs’ offense has struggled so much this season that the Buccaneers could still cover the 7 even if they don’t play their best game. This isn’t a money play, but that could change if the line moves to 7.5 by the morning.

Kansas City Chiefs 20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +7

Confidence: Low

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