Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10 SU, 4-9-1 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (10-4 SU, 9-5 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Sunday December 24th, 2017. 1:00PM (EST)
Where: Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, N.C.
by Jay, NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: TB +10/CAR -10
Over/Under Total: 46.5
Dont look now but the Carolina Panthers have emerged as one of the hottest teams in the NFC. Last week Carolina spoiled Aaron Rodgers return with an impressive 31-24 victory over the Packers. The defense played big forcing several turnovers and quarterback Cam Newton delivered on all accounts in a collective team effort. The victory moved the Panthers to 6-1 SU in the last 7 games and one step closer to a playoff berth. The Panthers will get a chance to seal their playoff fate this weekend when they meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home inside Bank of America Stadium.
It has obviously been a rough season for the 4-10 Buccaneers. Last weeks 24-21 loss to the Falcons were in many ways a microcosm of their entire season. The Buccaneers were outplayed but fought hard only to give up costly mistakes. Running back Peyton Barber coughed up an untimely fumble deep inside Atlanta territory and despite another late rally; kicker Patrick Murray missed a game tying field goal as time expired. It was another hard-fought loss that has become all too customary for the Buccaneers. In fact, Tampa Bay has lost by 6 points or less in their last 3 straight games.
The Buccaneers have been competitive in most weeks but have failed to pull out the close wins. The reasons behind the close losses are speculative and perhaps there are several underlying reasons. The question going forward over the next two weeks is can Tampa Bay remain at a competitive level against two of the better teams in the NFC? It would be easy for a 4-10 team that is on the heels of 4 straight losses to just toss in the towel. However, the Buccaneers have shown they have some fight left in the tank and surely they would love to score an upset over a division rival.
The good news for the Buccaneers is that quarterback Jameis Winston and WR Mike Evans emerged out of their slump last week. Winston threw for 299 yards with 3 touchdowns and 0 picks in last weeks loss while Evans scored his first touchdown since week 7 with a 5-79-1 stat line. In recent weeks, Evans had seen a reduction in targets and focus in the Bucs offense. Therefore, it was nice to see the offense turn back their focus to one of their top players. Winston and Evans are the catalyst for this Tampa Bay offense and I think their connection must be the focus going forward to get the rest of the offense going. In recent weeks, Tampa Bays offense has sustained several injuries. WR DeSean Jackson has battled an ankle injury and will be doubtful again this week. Meanwhile, rookie TE OJ Howard was lost for the season two weeks ago. With losses mounting on the injury front, Winston is running out of targets in the passing game and that is not promising for a team that lacks the ability to run the football.
The biggest obstacle Tampa Bays offense will have this weekend aside from the injuries is that they will be playing against one of the leagues top defenses. The Panthers proved last week that they are one of the top groups in the NFL by spoiling Aaron Rodgers return with 3 interceptions. Statistically, Carolina ranks 5th in defense yielding just 307 yards per game. In my personal opinion, the defense has always been strong as they rarely have many poor performances. The reason the Panthers have emerged as one of the NFCs top threats is that quarterback Cam Newton is finally playing at a high level.
I have been very critical of Newton in the past but there is no denying he has played very well in recent weeks. Newton has thrown 11 touchdown passes with just 1 pick in the last 5 games and has ran for more than 50 yards in 4 of the past 5 games adding another touchdown on the ground. When Cam is throwing the ball well and running the ball, it opens up everything for the Carolina offense. Last week, TE Greg Olsen had his first big game since returning from that broken foot injury that left him sidelined for more than half the season. Olsen caught 9 passes for 116 yards with a touchdown in the victory over Green Bay to re-establish his footprint in the offense. Running back Christian McCaffrey and WR Damiere Byrd also had big games. However, I still accredit the offenses success to Newtons strong play. As long as he continues to play at the level he has shown in recent weeks, the Panthers will be one of the toughest teams in the NFC to beat.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Buccaneers have been competitive, but this is not an ideal matchup for them against Carolinas defense. I expect the Panthers defense to continue to impress and Newton to feed off their success to lock up a playoff berth. Take Carolina -10 – If you went to the store and two of the same exact product were sitting side by side; One for $105.00 and one for $110.00, which would you buy? THE CHEAPER ONE OF COURSE! So why are you still betting at -110 odds when you could be betting at -105? Dump your overpriced bookie TODAY and start enjoying the benefits of discounted odds at the web’s BEST sportsbook: 5Dimes!