Arizona Cardinals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2019 Week 10 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (3-5-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6)

The Buccaneers are 2-6, but they’ve been competitive in most of their games, despite facing the 5th toughest schedule in the NFL in terms of DVOA (6 of 8 opponents are 5-3 or better). Only two of their six losses have come by more than one score and the Buccaneers actually won the first down rate in both of those losses. Against the 49ers week 1, the Buccaneers won the first down rate battle by 3.85% but lost the game 31-17, primarily because they lost the turnover battle by two. Against the Panthers week 6, they won the first down rate battle by 1.33% but lost the game 37-26, primarily because they lost the turnover battle by 6. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and the Buccaneers rank 19th in first down rate differential on the season at -1.05%, despite that tough schedule. 

The Cardinals have one more win than the Buccaneers, but they haven’t played nearly as well. Their 3 wins have come by a combined 10 points against teams that are a combined 3-22, while 3 of their losses have come by 17 points or more. They have a significantly worse point differential than the Buccaneers (-56 vs. -22), despite a significantly better turnover margin (+3 vs. -5), and they rank just 29th in first down rate differential at -6.12%, despite an easier schedule. 

I have this line calculated at Tampa Bay -6.5, so we’re getting some line value with the Buccaneers at -4, although not enough to take them confidently. The Cardinals aren’t in a good spot, between a close loss to the 49ers and a rematch next week, but the Buccaneers aren’t either, between a close loss to the Seahawks and a home game against the division leading Saints. Both teams could be flat this week, so while Tampa Bay should be the right side, this is just a low confidence pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34 Arizona Cardinals 27

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -4

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks: 2019 Week 9 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5) at Seattle Seahawks (6-2)

I locked this line in at Tampa Bay +6 earlier this week during my Thursday Night Football write up and I’m glad I did because heavy sharp action on the Buccaneers has driven the line down to +5. The Seahawks are 6-2, but outside of MVP candidate Russell Wilson they have a pretty mediocre roster and have not played all that well that season, in spite of what their record suggests. Five of their 6 wins have come by a combined 15 points, including wins over the Bengals, Steeelers, Browns, and Falcons, who are a combined 6-24. They have just a +12 point differential and they rank just 14th in first down rate differential at +1.13%, despite facing the 8th easiest schedule in the NFL in terms of DVOA. 

The Buccaneers, meanwhile, have faced the 5th hardest schedule in the NFL in terms of DVOA and they’ve been competitive, despite their record. They rank 15th in first down rate differential at -0.18%, not far behind the Seahawks. They’re also in a much better spot, as the Seahawks have to turn around and go to San Francisco next week, while the Buccaneers get to host the Cardinals. Underdogs are 68-31 ATS since 2016 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. This is definitely a look ahead spot for a Seahawks team that has had trouble winning by convincingly by big margins all season and I wouldn’t be surprised if this underrated Buccaneers team pulled the upset. This is my top Pick of the Week and I’d recommend a bet even if you didn’t get the +6 early. 

Seattle Seahawks 33 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +6

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) at Tennessee Titans (3-4)

It’s only one game, but I was impressed with the Titans’ offense in Ryan Tannehill’s first start last week, as they had a 40.98% first down rate for the game, compared to 32.69% in their first 6 games of the season and a 34.12% rate down rate in 2018. Tannehill isn’t great, but he really only needs to be a serviceable starter for this team to be competitive. The Titans went 6-2 in 2018 with double digit wins over the Cowboys and Patriots during the one 8-game stretch where Marcus Mariota was healthy and they went 9-7 overall despite Mariota limited with injuries and despite playing 9 eventual playoff teams (4-5). This year, they are just 3-4, but they have a +9 point differential, best among teams with a losing record, despite missing 5 field goals (second most in the NFL), and they rank 14th in first down rate differential at +1.24%.

They are led by a defense that ranks 5th in first down rate allowed and ranked 4th in that metric last season, so as long as Tannehill and the offense are serviceable, this team could go on a surprise run. Despite that, they are only 2.5-point home favorites here against the Buccaneers, suggesting the Buccaneers are the slightly better team. I have it the other way around, as the Buccaneers rank 16th in first down rate differential at +0.03% and 19th in my roster rankings, while the Titans rank 14th and 12th respectively. We’re not getting a ton of line value with the Titans, but they’re worth a bet as long as this line is under a field goal.

Tennessee Titans 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -2.5

Confidence: Medium

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers: 2019 Week 6 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) vs. Carolina Panthers (3-2) in London

This is the first rematch of the year, as these two division rivals already met back in week 2. The Buccaneers pulled the 20-14 upset in Carolina on Thursday Night Football earlier this year, but the Panthers had a shot to win that game at the end, despite a truly horrible performance from a severely injured Cam Newton on a short week. Not only did Newton complete just 49.0% of his 51 passes in that game, but many of the incompletions were completely his fault, as he was missing open receivers left and right. His expected completion percentage based on the throws he attempted was 60.7% and his completion percentage above expected of -11.7% was the worst of any quarterback who started and finished a game that week. 

After that loss, Newton admitted his foot injury was worse than anyone knew and shut himself down for the good of the team, allowing backup Kyle Allen to take over until Newton is back to 100%. Allen has started all 3 games since and, while he hasn’t been incredible, he has been far more accurate, with a +2.8% completion percentage above expected (11th in the NFL) and, simply by being a serviceable NFL quarterback, he has led this team to victories in all 3 starts. Considering they lost by just 3 points week 1 to a Rams team that covered all 4 fumbles in the game, with Newton at far less than 100%, it’s not hard to make the argument that the Panthers could be 5-0 right now if they had a healthy quarterback under center all season.

Some of the Panthers’ wins have been close and they “only” rank 12th in first down rate differential at +2.32%, but this is a pretty complete football team and, with serviceable quarterback play, they are one of the better teams in the league. The Buccaneers, whose defense has fallen back to earth over the past couple weeks (46.62% first down rate allowed) after a strong statistical start to the season (30.73% first down rate allowed through 3 games), should have a much tougher time stopping the Panthers’ offense this time around. The better team tends to cover in these international matchups as well (favorites are 23-11 ATS all-time), which also favors the Panthers.

As 2-point favorites, the Panthers have to just win to cover this game, so they should be the right side. However, their injury situation concerns me enough to not bet them, as the Panthers will be without a pair of starters on the offensive line (left tackle Greg Little and right guard Trai Turner) and possibly starting cornerback Donte Jackson, who has missed the past two games and was downgraded to a limited practice on Friday after practicing in full earlier in the week. 

The Panthers haven’t lost a game without those three, but their absence caps the team’s upside. Without them, I have this line calculated at just Carolina -3, so we’re not getting enough line value to bet the Panthers. If Jackson ends up playing and the Buccaneers’ top edge rusher Shaq Barrett, who was a late add to the injury report this week, ends up not playing, I will reconsider this pick, but for now it doesn’t seem like Barrett is in much danger of missing this game.

Carolina Panthers 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Pick against the spread: Carolina -2

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) at New Orleans Saints (3-1)

The Saints have won both games started by Teddy Bridgewater, but they can’t get Drew Brees back quickly enough, as their offense has completely sputtered in his absence, even as much talent as they have on offense around the quarterback. In 27 drives since taking over for Brees, Bridgewater has led the Saints to just 46 first downs and 3 touchdowns on 160 plays, a 30.63% first down rate, which would be the 4th worst in the NFL. By comparison, the Saints had a 43.17% first down rate in 2018. 

As a result, the Saints have actually lost the first down battle in both games started by Bridgewater, winning the two games by just a combined 8 points, despite a +2 turnover margin and a +2 return touchdown margin, two things that tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. On the season, they rank just 27th in first down rate at -4.24% and that includes 12 drives where Drew Brees was under center. Their defense gets a boost with stud defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins returning from injury, even if he might not be 100% immediately, but their offense should remain a concern until Brees returns. 

Unfortunately, we’ve lost all line value with the Buccaneers, the Saints’ opponent this week, as this line has shifted from New Orleans -6.5 to New Orleans -3, even though the Saints pulled the upset win at home over the Cowboys last week. That’s because the Buccaneers pulled the upset in Los Angeles last week against the Rams, but I’m not as impressed by that as most, for three reasons. 

For one, the Rams were an overrated team that could have been 1-2 instead of 3-0 if their first opponents (Panthers and Saints) had healthy quarterbacks. Two, the Rams were in a tough spot, with a key divisional game against the Seahawks on deck on Thursday Night Football. Three, the Buccaneers actually lost the first down rate battle in that game by 4.18%, despite winning by 15. They won the turnover margin by 3, but that tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis.

Ranking 16th on the season in first down rate at +0.77%, the Buccaneers seem to be improved on both sides of the ball with new head coach Bruce Arians and his staff, but they might be a little overrated after last week’s win. The Saints may be overrated too because winning has diverted attention from how much their offense has slowed, but I still have this line calculated at New Orleans -3.5, as they still have a lot of talent around the quarterback, especially on defense. There’s not nearly enough here to bet the Saints with confidence, but they seem like the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

New Orleans Saints 20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -3.5

Confidence: None

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams: 2019 Week 4 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) at Los Angeles Rams (3-0)

Probably the most surprising stat from this early season is the Buccaneers ranking 4th in first down rate allowed at 30.73%, after finishing 30th at 40.98% last season. The Buccaneers made changes on defense this off-season, but didn’t add any marquee players. They made a lateral move at the defensive tackle position, cutting Gerald McCoy to sign Ndamukong Suh in a cost saving measure. They signed underrated ex-Bronco Shaq Barrett to help their edge rush, but also lost their top pass rusher from a year ago Jason Pierre-Paul to an off-season injury. They used the 5th overall pick on middle linebacker Devin White, but he’s barely played due to injury. Barrett has exceeded expectations, but mostly it’s been young holdovers exceeding expectations so far, in large part due to the addition of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Last year’s first round pick Vita Vea has especially broken out, but their young secondary has been better than expected as well. 

Despite that, they are still just 1-2 and it’s fair to question whether their defense can keep it up and definitely fair to question their competition thus far. In week 1, they faced the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo was rusty in his first back, having the 6th worst completion percentage above expected of the week, at -5.4%. In week 2, they faced a severely injured Cam Newton, who had the 4th worst completion percentage above expected the week, at -11.7%. Last week, they faced a Giants team that was starting a rookie quarterback and that was without Saquon Barkley and surrendered over 30 points. The Rams are an obvious step up in talent. 

That being said, the Rams haven’t been quite as impressive on offense this year as they have been the past two years, in large part due to their offensive line. They will get right guard Austin Blythe back after he missed last week with injury, but they lost left guard Rodger Saffold and center John Sullivan in the off-season and second year replacements Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen have not been impressive. 

Their defense has been better this season, but their offense ranks just 17th in first down rate and they are lucky to be 3-0, recovering all 4 fumbles in a 3-point win over an injured Cam Newton and the Panthers week 1, then facing a Saints team week 2 that lost Drew Brees in the first quarter, and then last week they narrowly escaped against a Browns team that was missing eight week 1 starters due to injury, including four in the secondary. They have relatively easy competition this week, but they are in a tough spot with a much bigger game in Seattle on deck in 4 days. Favorites are 56-77 ATS since 2012 before Thursday Night Football and the Buccaneers could definitely cover this 9-point spread if the Rams don’t play their best game.  There’s not enough here to bet on the Buccaneers, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Los Angeles Rams 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +9

Confidence: Low

New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2019 Week 3 NFL Pick

New York Giants (0-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)

The Buccaneers pulled the upset win in Carolina last week on Thursday Night Football, but that was more about the struggles of Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense. Clearly playing at less than 100% through a foot injury, Newton was wildly inaccurate last week, constantly missing receivers that would come open against the Buccaneers’ defense. He did not look comfortable planting and throwing on his injured foot and did not take off and run at all either. And despite that, the Panthers still had a chance to win the game at the end, so I think the Buccaneers are a little overrated coming off of that win.

The Buccaneers are also in a bad spot this week, with a much tougher game on deck in Los Angeles against the Rams, a game in which they will almost definitely be big underdogs. Favorites of 6+ are just 33-62 ATS since 2008 before being underdogs of 6+ the following week. On the other side, the Giants are expected to be home favorites next week against the Redskins. Underdogs are 96-56 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. We’re not getting great line value with the Giants (I have this line calculated at Tampa Bay -5) and I’m not sure how Daniel Jones will perform in his first career start, but the Buccaneers are unlikely to give their best effort against an underwhelming opponent with a much tougher game on deck, so I like the Giants chances of covering as 6-point underdogs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 New York Giants 24

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +6

Confidence: Medium