Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (5-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5)

The Redskins are 5-3, but are nowhere close to as good as their record. Their record is boosted by a 3-0 record in games decided by a touchdown or less and a +7 turnover margin, two things that are tough to maintain week-to-week. They’ve also lost at home by double digits to a banged up Colts team and last week to a banged up Falcons team. On the season, they rank 22nd in first down rate differential at -2.42% and are even worse than that suggests because of all the players they are missing with injury.

The Redskins are without their top-2 offensive linemen, left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brandon Scherff, as well as left guard Shawn Lauvao and possibly right tackle Morgan Moses. They are also missing passing down back Chris Thompson, wide receiver Paul Richardson, and possibly slot receiver Jamison Crowder, who made a limited return to practice this week for the first time since getting injured in week 5. Their defense is healthier by comparison, but starting cornerback Quinton Dunbar is expected to be out, after missing practice all week.

Given all that the Redskins are missing, the Buccaneers are the clearly better team in this game, despite the records. Their defense is horrendous, ranking 31st in first down rate allowed at 43.74%, but their offense ranks only behind the Chiefs, Saints, and Rams in first down rate at 42.34%. Regardless of who has been under center, this offense has been explosive because of all the skill position talent they have and now they have Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has been the better of their two quarterbacks this season, under center. They’re a similar team to the Falcons, who the Redskins had a lot of trouble with last week.

The Buccaneers probably won’t win by 24 like the Falcons did, but they should definitely be favored by more than a field goal here at home. I locked this line in early in the week at -2.5, but, even though it’s gone up to 3 in some places, you can still get -2.5 in some places with higher juice. Given that in 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, -2.5 is a much better line, but the Buccaneers are worth betting at -3 as well.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 Washington Redskins 24

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -2.5

Confidence: High

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cincinnati Bengals: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-3)

The Bengals got off to a great start to the season, but the injuries have piled up for them and they are not nearly the same team anymore. All in all, they are missing tight ends Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft, running back Giovani Bernard, wide receiver John Ross, center Billy Price, defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow, linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil, and cornerback Darqueze Dennard. That being said, we are not getting good line value betting against them this week, as mere 4 point home favorites against the Buccaneers. After the Bengals got blown out on national television in Kansas City last week, it’s not exactly a secret that they aren’t playing as well as they were earlier in the year.

Teams actually tend to play pretty well after blowout losses, going 55-34 ATS since 2002 after a loss of 35 points or more, as teams tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed in that spot, and the Bengals could be all three this week. With that in mind, I’m actually taking the Bengals this week, as the Buccaneers have their own injury issues. They are missing defensive end Vinny Curry, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, and linebacker Kwon Alexander, three of their best defensive players, from a defense that was not any good to begin with, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 43.83% rate on the season, 31st in the NFL. This is a no confidence pick, but the Bengals have a good chance to bounce back at home against a mediocre opponent.

Cincinnati Bengals 35 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -4

Confidence: None

Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (2-3-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)

Going into the season, the Browns were high on my underrated list. Their defense has possibly exceeded my expectations, ranking 8th in first down rate allowed at 34.17%, but their offense has struggled mightily, ranking 30th in first down rate at 29.71%, only ahead of the Cardinals and Bills. Both quarterbacks they’ve started have been inconsistent at best and their supporting cast hasn’t been much help, especially their banged up receiving corps. As a result of their struggling offense, the Browns rank 28th in first down rate differential at -4.47%.

The Browns have a 2-3-1 record and have been competitive in every game until last week’s blowout loss at home to the Chargers, but that’s largely because they rank tied for first in the NFL in turnover margin at +7. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week and year-to-year basis, so the Browns won’t necessarily be able to count on that going forward. One of the reasons I liked the Browns coming into the year was that I expected them to improve drastically on their abysmal -28 turnover margin from 2017, but I wouldn’t expect them to keep up their current pace for the rest of the season.

The Browns defense also takes a big hit this week with the loss of every down linebacker Joe Schobert with injury. Fortunately for them, they have one of their easier opponents this week, as they travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers. Even at full health, the Buccaneers are a mediocre team because of a horrendous defense that ranks 31st in first down rate allowed at 46.08%, but they will also be without two of their better defensive players, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Vinny Curry, with injury this week, making matters even worse. As bad as the Browns’ offense has been this season, they shouldn’t have much trouble moving the ball against this defense.

Despite the Buccaneers’ injuries, this line has shifted significantly in Tampa Bay’s favor in the last week, moving from Tampa Bay -1.5 on the early line to Tampa Bay -3.5 this week, crossing over the ultimate key number of 3. The Browns didn’t look good at home last week against the Chargers and Schobert’s absence will likely be a big deal, but, at the very least, these two teams are about even as currently constructed, so we’re getting some line value with the visitors. It’s not enough to bet the Browns this week, but they have a good chance to keep this within a field goal or to pull the straight up upset.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 Cleveland Browns 24

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +3.5

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons: 2018 Week 6 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-4)

These two teams are pretty similar, as they have good offenses, but horrendous defenses. The Falcons started the season as a balanced team, but they have had terrible injury luck on defense, with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, linebacker Deion Jones, and safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen out with injuries. As a result, a team that looked like a possible contender coming into the season has fallen to 1-4 and looks unlikely to improve on defense any time soon.

On the other side, the Buccaneers problem on defense isn’t really injuries; they just have a weak defense. They rank dead last in first down rate allowed at 45.88%, one spot ahead of the Falcons at 45.02%. Fortunately, their offense has been strong to compensate somewhat, ranking 7th in first down rate at 40.56%, a few spots ahead of the Falcons, who rank 10th at 39.25% and continue to be without running back Devonta Freeman with injury.

With Jameis Winston taking his starting job back from Ryan Fitzpatrick, after briefly being benched upon his return from suspension, the Buccaneers’ offense could conceivably improve going forward. Winston played well when healthy last season and has arguably the most talented receiving corps in the NFL, especially with tight end OJ Howard looking likely to return from injury this week. I have the Falcons a couple spots higher in my rankings, so I’m taking them as mere 3 point home favorites, but this game is close to a toss up and could easily push. At 3.5, I’d take the Buccaneers.

Atlanta Falcons 34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -3

Confidence: None

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears: 2018 Week 4 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) at Chicago Bears (2-1)

Ryan Fitzpatrick played incredibly well in the first two games of the season, but he fell back to earth last week, with a 3 turnover performance in a home loss to the Steelers, who have struggled defensively this season. Fitzpatrick is a gunslinger and has a lot of receiving talent to work with, so he could continue to post good passing yardage numbers, but he’s a 35-year-old career journeyman who is unlikely to suddenly be a different quarterback in his 14th season season in the league. With Jameis Winston returning from suspension this week, it would not be a surprise to see the Buccaneers pull Fitzpatrick if he turns the ball over early like he did last week. Winston may be an upgrade, but he’s had turnover problems in the past as well and has not seen a lot of first team reps.

Regardless of who is under center for the Buccaneers, the bigger concern is their defense, which ranks 28th in first down rate allowed at 42.13% and is unlikely to improve going forward. The Bears are a much more complete team, with one of the top defenses in the league, a strong offensive line and running game, and a solid receiving corps. Their obvious weakness is second year quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who continues to look like a bottom-5 starting quarterback, despite an improved coaching staff and an improved supporting cast.

Trubisky should be able to have a solid game against a terrible Tampa Bay defense though. This line, favoring Chicago by 3 points at home, suggests that these two teams are about even, which is not the case. I have this line calculated at about 6.5, so we’re getting good line value with the Bears, who arguably have the most non-quarterback talent in the NFL. They’re a strong play this week and should win this one with relative ease.

Chicago Bears 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16

Pick against the spread: Chicago -3

Confidence: High

Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2018 Week 3 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0)

This line briefly opened at Pittsburgh -3, but sharp action quickly bet the line down to 1.5. I regret not grabbing Tampa Bay +3 when I saw it, as, not only is it obviously a better number, but the Steelers have really had a lot of trouble covering decent sized or bigger lines as non-divisional road favorites in the Mike Tomlin era, going 7-18 ATS as non-divisional road favorites of 3+ (6-4 ATS as road favorites of less than 3).

Despite that movement, we are still getting line value with the Buccaneers, who have been one of the NFL’s biggest surprises at 2-0, with wins over 2017 playoff teams in the Saints and Eagles. Their strong play is not coming out of nowhere though. Despite being just 5-11 a year ago, the Buccaneers finished 12th in first down rate differential and lost just 4 games by more than 7 points, against one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. That was even with Jameis Winston missing 3 games and being limited in others with a shoulder injury.

Before Jameis Winston got suspended, I thought this team could easily be a surprise playoff team in the NFC, but I backed off after the Winston suspension and other troubling news about him this off-season. Instead, Ryan Fitzpatrick has come in and played better than Winston ever has. It’s unclear how much the 35-year-old career journeyman can be trusted to continue playing like this, but I definitely have a lot more confidence in him now than I did a couple weeks ago.

On the other side, the Steelers are off to a disappointing 0-1-1 start, with a tie in Cleveland followed up by a home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Pittsburgh’s early season struggles are not out of nowhere either. They went 13-3 in 2017, but went 8-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less and could have easily been a 10 win team or worse. They especially struggled down the stretch, winning just 2 games by more than 4 points in the final 8 games of the season and then losing in their first playoff game at home to Jacksonville. That was in large part due to the loss of linebacker Ryan Shazier with injury and they did not adequately replace him this off-season.

Shazier isn’t the only player the Steelers don’t have on the field right now either. In addition to the holding out Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers are also missing arguably their two best offensive linemen, right guard David DeCastro and right tackle Marcus Gilbert, DeCastro missing his second game and Gilbert missing his first. They get Joe Haden back from a one game absence with a hamstring injury, but cornerback Artie Burns remains limited by a toe injury and is expected to be a reserve in this game, while safety/linebacker Morgan Burnett is expected to be out with a groin injury. Given all the guys they’re missing, the Steelers don’t deserve to be favored by any amount in Tampa, as I have these two teams about even in my roster rankings right now. The Buccaneers are worth a small bet this week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +1.5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2018 Week 2 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0)

The Buccaneers pulled off the biggest upset of week 1, going into New Orleans and beating the reigning NFC South champs by 8 points as 10 point underdogs. How well 35-year-old backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick played in the absence of the suspended Jameis Winston was a big surprise, but it wasn’t a surprise that the Buccaneers were able to play the Saints competitively. Despite a tough schedule and despite Winston being out or limited with injury for half of the season, the Buccaneers were still better than their 5-11 record in 2017, going just 2-7 in games decided by 7 points or fewer and finishing 12th in first down rate differential at +1.13%. Before the Winston suspension, I considered the Buccaneers a sleeper in the NFC.

Last week’s win in New Orleans moved this line significantly, with the Eagles going from being 6 point favorites to 3.5 point favorites, which makes the Buccaneers a much less attractive bet. Fitzpatrick is no guarantee to continue playing well, given his age and history of inconsistency, and the Buccaneers are also missing their top-2 cornerbacks with both Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves out with injury.

The Buccaneers also had a negative first down differential last week, despite the win (-2.54%). Their offense (50.00%) played well, but their defense was horrendous (52.54%). Nick Foles and the Eagles’ offense should find it much easier to move the ball this week than in their opener against the Falcons, especially given the Buccaneers’ injuries at cornerback. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers’ offense faces a much tougher test this week against the Eagles’ defense than last week in New Orleans and Fitzpatrick could easily regress. I’m still taking the Buccaneers for pick ‘em purposes, but there’s no line value with them at 3.5, so they’re not worth a bet.

Philadelphia Eagles 23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +3.5

Confidence: None