Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Preview and Pick

Carolina Panthers (4-1) +1.5, 37 O/U at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2) -1.5, 37 O/U,
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, F.L., 1PM Eastern, Sunday

by Jay Horne of Predictem.com

Two NFC South contenders will clash this Sunday at Raymond James Stadium when the Carolina Panthers take stage to battle the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers come into the game leading the NFC South at a mark of (4-1) while the Buccaneers are just one game behind at (3-2).

The Carolina Panthers have picked up the pace in the last few weeks after dropping their only loss of the season to Minnesota in Week 3. Since then, the Panthers have outscored their last two opponents 58-9 over the last two weeks.

After knocking off 3 straight wins, the Buccaneers were knocked off at Mile High Stadium a week ago to the Denver Broncos in a defensive battle 16-13. Interestingly, in both games the Bucs have lost they have been held to 20 points and under.

Most books the game listed at -1.5 of the home team Buccaneers. However, over 80% of the early betting action is going with the Carolina Panthers. The Over/Under total is holding steady at 37. This number might go up slightly as many early bettors are jumping on the OVER for the contest. If you would like to bet on the moneyline, the Panthers are listed at +105 and the Buccaneers posted at -125.

The Panthers offense has picked up and is firing on all cylinders over the past few weeks. In the last 3 contests including the loss to the Vikings, Jake Delhomme has thrown for 64% with 4 TDs and 1 INT with a QB rating of 104.8. This is sure to give big problems to any team they face considering their defense is arguably one of the best in the league.

The Panthers defense is ranked #4 in the NFL in total yards, holding opponents to 254 ypg. Also, the secondary has been stout, ranked #2 in the league only allowing 156 ypg. This will give the Bucs problems given at times this year they have struggled to move the ball in the air. The Carolina defense will look to make this a low scoring game which most believe will benefit the Panthers.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a bit of controversy surrounding the QB position. Brian Griese injured his elbow last week against the Denver Broncos and is questionable for Sunday. Griese has been the starter of late but has thrown 6 interceptions in the last two outings. Former starter Jeff Garcia came into the game last week and showed some life going 13-17 for 93 yards with a 1 TD and 1 pick. Between whomever may start, Garcia or Griese must find a way to put the ball in the endzone and put points on the board.

A bright spot for the Buccaneers has been their defense. They have kept opposing offenses in check only allowing 18 points per game. The Bucs defense should allow the game to stay relatively close no matter how their offense performs. In the Buccaneers only two losses this season, their biggest defeat was a mere 4 points. This is a unit that you expect to have a chance at winning every ballgame they play.

The Carolina Panthers have won 8 of their last 10 regular season games against Tampa Bay with the last meeting resulting in the Panthers edging out the Bucs 31-23 in Tampa to close out the 2007 regular season. However, the Bucs are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 matches this season with the Panthers being 3-1 with also a tie ATS in their last 5 outings. Both teams have a 3-2 mark in their last 5 battles when clashing with NFC South foes.

The over/under (total) for the game is at 37. History shows this division battle has either been a tight defensive game or a scoring shootout. In the last 10 meetings between Tampa Bay and Carolina, 5 of their games the total score has been 35 and under with the other 5 games being 48 and over. Not one game has had a scoring total between 36 and 47. The early betting action has slightly over 75% of bettors taking the over total for the game.

What to watch for As mentioned before, the Panthers have been putting up a lot of points over the last few weeks but those games have been against weak defenses. Dont be surprised if this game turns out to be low scoring since the Tampa offense has struggled and the Carolina offense will line up against a much better defense than in previous weeks.

Jay’s Pick: Under 37 points scored.