Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5 SU, 6-5 ATS) vs. San Diego Chargers (5-6 SU, 7-4 ATS)
NFL Week 14
Date/Time: Sunday, December 4, 2016, 2016 at 4:25PM EST
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: TB +4/ SD -4
Over/Under Total: 47.5
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday to face the San Diego Chargers. Both teams are coming off wins on Sunday. San Diego beat Houston on the road, 21-13, and looks to get to .500 at 6-6 with a win at home this week against a surging Bucs bunch. Tampa, after looking spent at 3-5, have since won three straight games to get to 6-5—just one game behind the Falcons in the NFC South. On Sunday, they scored a 14-5 win over the Seattle Seahawks and after beating the Chiefs the week before that, the Bucs have become a team worth watching.
Tampa is seeing improvement on both sides of the ball over this latest three-game stretch. Opponents have been outscored 69-32 in the last three games. The defense, a major roadblock to success in the first part of the season, has gotten its act together some recently. The offense is beginning to find its footing. Doug Martin is back and could the offense a boost and another dimension. He has a few games under his belt and is due to make some major contributions. Things have started gelling for first-year head coach Dirk Koetter and his squad.
Tampa quarterback Jameis Winston has been playing better lately. He has only three picks in his last seven games after struggling earlier in the season in that area. With Martin back and warming up with Winston always good for a few runs, look for more offensive versatility in upcoming games. Winston is connecting nicely with the league’s second-leading receiver in Mike Evans, who is now over 1000 yards with ten scores. Cameron Brate has come on this season as a playmaking tight end, while WR Adam Humphries is becoming a key part of the offense.
The defense has been a key part of the recent Tampa spurt. A team that was getting picked apart by opposing offenses at times this season has been far more respectable with their 32 combined point allowance in the past three games. Directly before this latest streak, the Tampa defense was lit up by Atlanta and Oakland and looked to be strongly heading in the wrong direction. It would be good if Gerald McCoy can shake off the leg injury he suffered on Sunday. Noah Spence, a pass-rushing rookie, has been big recently and had 1.5 sacks on Sunday. Against San Diego, the Tampa defense will be pushed, as San Diego has a number of different ways they can get you. But teams like Tampa that can reverse form and have the character to overcome adversity can be difficult to derail once they’ve established some positive momentum. It took a lot of work and mental struggle to get to 6-5 and they still have a lot of work to do.
San Diego is more dangerous than their record indicates. You see a 5-6 team and it’s easy to draw conclusions, especially with how depleted they are because of injuries. They still could be 8-3 or better if they were able to close out games. That speaks to how un-dangerous they are late in games perhaps, but they have been in a position to win most of their games. That also suggests they’re not that far off. A bye week looked to serve them well, as they went into Houston and scored a much-needed win. They can get back to .500 and have some optimism moving forward, even if the division is out of reach.
The Chargers are still trying hard and playing with a lot of energy. Philip Rivers was good on Sunday, with three TD passes. Dontrelle Inman, Tyrell Williams, and Hunter Henry each caught touchdowns, as all three ball-catchers have stepped up to make up for the losses suffered on this offense. Williams has nearly 800 yards in what has been a coming-out season. Travis Benjamin, while injured recently and missing time, has been a good aerial threat this season. Melvin Gordon ran for 70 yards and four catches, as the elevation of his game has been critical in keeping this offense afloat. For how many pieces they lost, their depth has been a big asset.
The San Diego defense never really had a shot this season with all the injuries. It has taken a toll on all phases of the defense. They had a chance to be really good without all the injuries. Even with a bye before last week’s game, the Chargers still have a bulk of their projected starters on the injury list. The run-stop lost a key piece a few weeks ago with Brandon Mebane going on IR. The middle has been torn apart by injuries. But they’re still getting good play in some areas. Joey Bosa has been good at getting after the passer, along with Melvin Ingram. The secondary makes plays, though they have been forced to deal with a ton of injuries. Casey Hayward picked off his 6th pass on Sunday, one of three picks for the Bolts.
Tampa is facing a difficult road spot in a faraway locale in a building a lot of Bucs’ players have not seen. The Bucs are hot with a lot on the line against a Chargers team that never seems to get over the hump this season for whatever reason. Something rings true about the Bucs recent spurt, with wins over winning teams like the Chiefs and Seahawks giving it more meaning. Against San Diego on Sunday, I see Tampa facing a lot of issues, but getting the cover in the end against a Chargers team that can’t seem to finish strong. I’ll take the points.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers plus 4 points.
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