Tampa Bay Buccanears vs. Carolina Panthers Preview

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6) +10, O/U 37 at Carolina Panthers (4-4), 8:30 p.m. Eastern Monday, ESPN
by Predictem.com Staff

A couple of NFC South teams who won 11 games and went to the playoffs last season hook up in more desperate circumstances when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Carolina Panthers on ESPN’s Monday Night Football tonight in Charlotte.

Tampa Bay stumbled through the first half of this season, thanks in large part to injuries to some key people and a 31st-ranked offense. Meanwhile, Carolina has had problems of its own, and has lost its last two games.

The Panthers sit in third place in the NFC South, a game and a half back of the division-leading New Orleans Saints. The Buccaneers occupy last place in the division, 3 games back of New Orleans and two behind Carolina.

In their most recent outings, Tampa Bay lost at home to the Saints 31-14 as one-point underdogs last week, while the Panthers fell at home to the Dallas Cowboys 35-14 as four-point favorites two weeks ago.

Carolina has won six of the last seven meetings between these two teams, including a 26-24 victory in Tampa back in September. The Panthers grabbed an early 17-0 lead, but the Bucs came back and led 24-23 with five minutes to go in the game. Carolina rallied, and ace kicker John Kasay, who had already hit FGs of 51, 50 and 49 yards, drilled another one from 46 yards out at the buzzer to give the Panthers the win.

Carolina outrushed Tampa that day 101-64, and knocked Bucs QB Chris Simms out for the season with some vicious hits that resulted in a spleenectomy. The game went over its posted total of 33 1/2.

Of those last seven games in the series between these two teams, four games have seen 48 or more points scored, while the other three games have seen 35 points or less tallied.

The Buccaneers are 4-4 against the spread this season, but 0-3 straight up and 1-2 ATS on the road.

The Panthers are 2-5-1 vs. the number this season, but just 2-2 straight up and 1-3 ATS at home.

TB QB Bruce Gradkowski, who took over the starting job after Simms got hurt, has completed 53% of his passes this season and owns a 6/1 TD/INT ratio and a 73.7 passing rating.

Carolina QB Jake Delhomme has hit on 59% of his passes this season for an 8/5 TD/INT ratio and an 80.3 passers rating.

Neither team has been too good in the running game this season. The Bucs are getting outrushed by a 134-83 yards-per-game average, while the Panthers are getting outgrounded by a 120-94 YPG margin.

Tampa ranks 27th in 3rd-down conversions at 32%, but the Bucs defense ranks 6th by holding opponents to a 35% 3rd-down success rate.

Carolina ranks dead last in the league on 3rd down with a 24.5% conversion rate, but the Panthers defense ranks 2nd by holding foes to a 30% 3rd-down success rate.

TB ranks 30th in the league in average time-of-possession at 27:26, while Carolina ranks 26th at 28:03.M

These two teams have played four common opponents this season; Tampa Bay has lost twice to New Orleans by scores of 31-14 and 24-21, while the Panthers beat the Saints 21-18; The Bucs beat Cincinnati 14-13, but Carolina fell to the Bengals 17-14; Tampa lost at Atlanta 14-3, and the Panthers got beat at home by the Falcons 20-6; And while the Buccaneers got trounced by Baltimore 27-0, Carolina beat the Ravens in B-Town 23-21.

The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com rank the Panthers 18th at 18.4, Tampa 27th at 13.8.

The O/U is 4-4 in Buccaneers games this season, 3-5 in Carolina games.

The Panthers opened up as 9-point chalk for this game, with a total of 36. Carolina has been bet up to 10-point favorites at most sportsbooks around the Internet, and the total has inched up to 37.