Carolina Panthers (6-9 SU, 5-9-1 ATS) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7 SU, 9-6 ATS)
NFL Week 17
Date/Time: Sunday January 1st, 2017. 1:00PM (EST) 2016
Where: Raymond James Stadium Tampa, F.L.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CAR +/TB -7
Over/Under Total: 47
After losing their last two games, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have basically been eliminated from the playoff picture. There is still a slight possibility that the Bucs could make the postseason if they beat the Carolina Panthers on Sunday but they would need a plethora of luck to fall their way at odds that would probably be easier to hit the Powerball Lottery. As a result, the Buccaneers will try to keep any slim hopes alive on Sunday when they host their NFC South Division rivals in the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium.
The Buccaneers beat the Panthers in the first meeting of the season back in early October in what was a rather surprising low scoring 17-14 outcome. Panthers’ tight end Greg Olsen erupted in that game to catch 9 passes for 181 yards despite the loss. Olsen’s huge day in the first meeting was somewhat surprising considering Tampa has typically been one of the best defenses against the tight end position. However, a lot of time has passed since that meeting and this game will likely have a much different impact and/or outcome.
For starters, both defenses have had some rough outings in recent weeks. The Panthers were dismantled by Atlanta 33-16 on Saturday marking the 3rd time in 5 weeks that they have given up more than 30 points. The Buccaneers were outscored by the Saints/Cowboys over the last two weeks by a combined score of 57-44 thanks largely impart to turnovers. Quarterback Jameis Winston has played poorly with 5 interceptions over those two games which have potentially caused them to miss out on a postseason opportunity. Of course Winston does not need the blame; the Buccaneers putrid running attack has put most of the pressure on the young quarterback which has not helped matters. However, it does not change the fact that this offense currently lives and dies by the play of their quarterback.
The Panthers have a pretty solid rush defense but they have a very vulnerable secondary meaning this game could likely ride on the arm of Winston yet again. Buccaneers running back Doug Martin was a late scratch last Saturday which paved the way for backup Jacquizz Rodgers to post a 15 carry, 63 yards, and 1 touchdown running line. Rodgers actually eclipsed 100 yards in the first meeting against the Panthers when Martin was out. Rodgers have easily been the best back this season regardless of Martin’s #1 status on the depth chart outgaining the starter 4.3 to 2.9 yards per carry. Therefore, I like Rodgers as the more quick/shifty back between this Carolina defense if Martin sits again.
Still Winston will likely be needed for the Buccaneers to win this game and WR Mike Evans should have a great matchup that he could potentially exploit against Carolina’s cornerbacks. The main thing for Winston is to simply protect the ball and not allow the Panthers struggling offense any free opportunities. Because as bad as Winston has been in the last two games, quarterback Cam Newton has been even worse in recent weeks. Newton is completing just 45.2% (91 of 201) passing over his last 6 games averaging just 213 yards per game with 8 touchdowns and 4 picks during that stretch. On the season, Newton has the worse completion percentage (52.8%) of any starting quarterback in the NFL.
For some reason, the Panthers defense has been the alleged culprit of this year’s poor results but in reality the offense has been horrible especially Newton. I also do not like this spot for the Panthers in general. I usually do not give too much attention to teams that have “nothing” to play for because often times it is over rated. However, Atlanta beat the Panthers in every phase of the game last week in a true confidence crushing defeat. Now the Panthers try to put things together for one last hoorah on the road against a Tampa team that needs to win? Not to mention, Carolina does not have a favorable matchup on either side of the football. Yes, easy pick for me here.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Buccaneers -7
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