Carolina Panthers (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS)
NFL Football Week 4
Date/Time: Sunday October 4th, 1:00PM EST
Where: Raymond James Stadium Tampa, F.L.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Panthers +3/Buccaneers -3
Over/Under Total: 40.5
The Carolina Panthers will take their perfect 3-0 record on the road this Sunday for a battle against their NFC South rivals in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The entire NFC South has been somewhat surprising this season especially if you consider the Falcons are 3-0 and the Saints are 0-3 in an apparent role reversal. However this Sundays matchup will be about the other two teams in the NFC South in the Buccaneers who are striving for an improved year and a Panthers team that is trying to emerge as one of the better teams in the entire NFC.
The Panthers have got off to one of the best starts in franchise history at 3-0. In fact, it is the first time a Carolina team has reached 3-0 to start the season since 2003. This week the Panthers will get a chance to keep their strong start alive against a Buccaneers team that they have beaten in 4 of their last 5 outings. However, this Tampa Bay team has a ton of new faces that is trying to find their identity. Buccaneers rookie quarterback Jameis Winston has been somewhat disappointing through his first 3 starts hitting just 52% of his passes with 4 touchdowns and 3 picks. The Buccaneers had a lot of hype going into the year surrounding their overall number 1 pick in the NFL Draft but Winston has shown that he still has a long way to go before he becomes a top NFL quarterback.
Instead, the Buccaneers are still trying to find some consistency on the offensive side of the ball. They have playmakers on the outside in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. However, Winston has had trouble getting them the ball. Running back Doug Martin has been pretty average at best carrying the ball 46 times for just 176 yards through the first 3 games. The good news for Tampa Bay fans is that they have a defense that is improved and this matchup against the Panthers is a favorable one. Neither offense poses a ton of firepower on offense. In fact both offenses tend to lean towards the run and are not afraid to play a field position battle with their defenses.
If that type of game plays out this Sunday, it will come down to just a few big plays to potentially decide the outcome. One thing the Buccaneers have done well is find a way to make bigger plays. Tampa Bay has already posted 11 plays for more than 20 yards through the first 3 games so needless to say they have the potential. The key for Winston and the offense will be to avoid turnovers and find ways to manufacture first downs against a strong Carolina defense.
The Panthers talented defense, that ranks 2nd in the NFL in scoring giving up just 16 points per game, became even stronger this week with the addition of defensive end Jared Allen from the Chicago Bears. Allen will take over a position that was voided by the injured Charles Johnson in a move that could pay huge dividends for an already stout defense that has struggled at times to get to the quarterback. Obviously it may take Allen some time to get accustomed to his new position so I am not sure how much of an immediate impact he will make. However, the Panthers have the physical toughness and talent to make things very difficult for Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin this week.
If the Panthers can simply play well against the run, they will be able to force Winston into some stressful situations. I personally do not have a lot of faith in Winston when he has to get rid of the ball quickly and it will be interesting to see if Carolina can force him to do just that. If so, the Panthers should be able to find a way to move the football offensively. Offensively, the Panthers do not have any explosive playmakers but they do have enough experience between QB Cam Newton, running back Jonathan Stewart, TE Greg Olsen, and WR Ted Ginn Jr to get some production and points on the scoreboard.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I am not convinced the Panthers are that good. However, they are better than Tampa Bay. Take Carolina -3
Additional NFL Football Betting Previews