Carolina Panthers (4-3 SU, 3-4 ATS) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4 SU, 1-4-1 ATS)
NFL Week 8
Date/Time: Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 1PM ET
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CAR +2/TB -2
Over/Under Total: 44.5
In NFC South action in week eight, the Carolina Panthers come to Raymond James Stadium to take on the Carolina Panthers. Both teams are in the midst of losing streaks and could really use a win. Tampa is sitting at 2-4 and the noose is tightening on a team that had high hopes. They gave up ten points late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, losing to the Bills, 30-27. The Panthers started the season 4-1, but two straight losses have them scrambling a bit. On Sunday, they lost 17-3 to the Bears and really looked lost on offense. Who can get it together in time for this matchup?
At 4-3, Carolina is still in better shape than Tampa, but the last two weeks have really painted them in a bad light. Their defense was looking good to start the season and theyve been deteriorating ever since. They were good against Chicago, allowing only a field goal, with the other scores being posted by the Bears defense. But the offense scoring a lousy field goal against the Bears is pretty awful, especially in what seemed to be an important game for them. There is no way to candy-coat the level of ineptitude they reached on Sunday. It was downright horrible and it shows that an off-kilter Carolina offense can really stink it up on a given Sunday.
Cam Newton seems to be off-the-mark. It doesnt help that his offensive line is depreciating and after returning, C Ryan Kalil is again hurt, with a big chunk of their front banged-up. Line or no line, Carolina held on to the ball for nearly 40 minutes on Sunday with a mere FG to show for it. Thats a stunning lack of turning production into points, with 20 first downs and three points on the day. A lot of the blame falls on Newton and his playmakers. A botched lateral to Curtis Samuel and a Newton pick resulted in touchdowns, as the Chicago defense outscored them by 11. Christian McCaffrey is catching a lot of short passes, but he hasnt been able to really run the ball or give them much of a boost in the return game. Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess could be a nice 1-2 WR punch, but they seldom both play well in-tandem. Ed Dickson has slowed down the last few weeks when it looked like he might be a capable fill-in for injured Greg Olsen.
After giving up just three points to the Bears, its hard to call out the Carolina defense, though they have been inconsistent this season. And the loss of Ryan Kuechly has cost them a lot of their menace. Still, they were effective on Sunday in holding the Bears to five first downs on offense and one good play the whole day. They allowed just two third-down conversions. Linebacker Shaq Thompson was big, with guys up-front getting after it with Kawann Short and Mario Addison getting sacks. Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky completed 4 balls on the day, with James Bradberry, Daryl Worley, and others in the secondary deserving credit for performing well when being constantly hung out to dry by their offense.
The story doesnt get much rosier when discussing the Buccaneers fortunes thus far in the 2017 season. A 2-4 record through 6 games was not really what the team or anyone was expecting. A lot of it comes down to not performing well late in games. On Sunday, they seemed to have things under control with a late TD against Buffalo and they still found a way to mess it all up. Personnel issues have also cost them, with key guys missing time on both sides of the ball. Poor placekicking cost them at least one game. On one hand, theyre not at all far from being 4-2, but theyre not and thats what matters.
Jameis Winston did some good things for the Bucs on Sunday, throwing for three touchdowns and 384 yards. But its often a double-edged sword with the turnover-prone Winston and he had two more of them on Sunday. He looks to have made a nice connection with rookie tight end OJ Howard, who had 98 yards receiving with two TD receptions on Sunday. With another good tight end in Cameron Brate and a nice 1-2 punch at receiver with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, this aerial-attack should produce better at some point. Making it come together could be RB Doug Martin, who should be ready to roll after warming up after coming off a suspension.
Aside from stats and who played well for the Tampa defense, when your team takes a 7-point lead with 3 minutes left, you cant let the opponent win in regulation. Thats especially true when youre 2-3 and really need a win. We have seen a secondary that has struggled in getting its act together. Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes have been off and safeties Chris Conte and Robert McClain havent been pulling their weight. At linebacker, they have strength with Lavonte Davis and Kwon Alexander. Chris Baker and Gerald McCoy are tough up-front. But that secondary always looms as a weak spot to send the Buccaneers plans sideways and weve seen it already occur this season.
Both teams have to be feeling the heat. Not all teams can respond in the affirmative when facing must-win situations. They both needed wins last week and both teams laid a big egg in different ways. Carolina is on the verge of blowing a good start and should really be pining to score a big division win. But Tampa is on the verge of this becoming a lost season and in the face of that, should be expected to play well at home. With their offense at least somewhat on the right track, I see the Bucs finding a way to get it done on Sunday.
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