Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5 SU, 8-2-1 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (8-3 SU, 6-5 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date/Time: Sunday, December 2nd, 2012, 4:05 p.m. EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
TV: FOX/DirecTV 713
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: TB +7/Den. -7
Over/Under Total: 50.5
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The Denver Broncos will put their six-game win streak on the line Sunday afternoon when they welcome the surprising Tampa Bay Buccaneers into Sports Authority Field at Mile High in an afternoon NFC-AFC clash on Fox.
Ever since the Broncos and Peyton Manning erased a 24-point deficit after halftime at San Diego back on Monday Night Football in October (15th), the Broncos haven’t been stopped. Last week they struggled and had their hands full on the road at Arrowhead, but again Manning and the Broncos rallied to score a, 17-9, victory to move to 8-3 and virtually lock up the AFC West title with five games to play.
Tampa Bay has been one of the NFL’s biggest surprises this season under first-year head coach Greg Schiano. The Bucs had their own four-game win streak going and had climbed right back into the thick of the NFC playoff hunt, until they suffered a disheartening loss last week to the rival Atlanta Falcons, 24-23. Tampa led throughout most of the game, but after having to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns opened the door for the Falcons to score the go-ahead score late in the final quarter and hold on for the one-point win.
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Now the Buccaneers have to travel to the altitude of Mile High and take on the red-hot Broncos in order to try and stay in position for a late playoff push down the final stretch of the schedule.
With everyone in love with the Broncos and their winning ways of late, oddsmakers were forced to set the opening point spread for Sunday’s matchup with the Bucs with Denver as full touchdown 7-point favorites at home. There has been some interesting line movement since the release as well, with some sportsbooks taking on a lot of Tampa money to drop the number to minus -6.5, while other sportsbooks (5Dimes) have seen a lot of action on Denver to move the number up to minus -8.
The over/under total opened at 50.5 and has climbed to 51 at a few offshore sportsbooks, but it’s still listed at 50.5 at a majority of the books and properties out in Las Vegas.
It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone that the Broncos with Manning at the helm are the 3rd highest scoring team in the NFL with an average of 28.9 points per game, but the fact that Tampa Bay is right behind them in 4th at 28.2 points a game might make many of those same people do a double take.
Tampa has emerged as one of the most balanced offenses (244 ypg passing – 13th; 122 ypg rush – 11th) in the league due to the play of rookie running back Doug Martin, who has come out of Boise St. and become the NFL’s 4th-best rusher (1,050 yards, 9 TD) behind big names like Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch. Expect Martin to carry a big load on Sunday against Denver, not because the Broncos are weak against the run (99 ypg – 9th), but because the Broncos defense leads the league in sacks with 37 and a steady dose of Martin is the only way to keep QB Josh Freeman from getting to know Von Miller (14 sacks) and Elvis Dumervil (8 sacks) on a more personal level.
The biggest worry for Schiano and the Bucs will be if they fall behind Denver quickly. Tampa isn’t exactly a strong “come from behind” offense, and getting into obvious passing situations will only make Miller and Dumervil more effective.
Chances of falling behind quickly are pretty good too, considering Manning and the Broncos are the league’s 6th-best passing attack (288 ypg) going up against the NFL’s worst pass defense in Tampa Bay, who allow over 315 yards passing each week. The Bucs secondary, already thin to begin with, took a hit on Monday when starting corner Eric Wright was suspended four games for taking Adderall. Undrafted rookie Leonard Johnson will start in Wright’s place, a personnel change that you can bet the mortgage on that Manning will seek to exploit over and over again on Sunday.
Historically the Buccaneers haven’t beaten Denver since the 1990s, winning twice in 1999 at home (13-10) and in 1993 on the road in Denver (17-10). The Broncos have won both meetings in the 2000s, both by a 16-13 score, with the last one coming in Mile High in 2008.
But bettors will surely like to note that Tampa has not lost a single game at the window, going 3-0-2 ATS over the years including an ATS win in the last game as 3.5-point dogs. Historically the Bucs are a great wager on the road (18-7-1 ATS in L26), and they are also a great wager against winning teams on the road (14-3 ATS in L17 road games vs. team with winning record).
At first glance a total over 50 might seem a little high, but when you find out that the over is 7-1 in the Bucs last eight road games and it’s also 17-7 in the Broncos last 24 games at home, and you can understand why the number has been set so high.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Tampa has major issues in their secondary, not exactly the best scenario to have on the week when your facing a veteran like Manning. Tampa can’t afford to fall behind too much too early or they’ll unleash the Broncos pass rush at full force. Tampa’s best approach is to try and make it a “three-yards and a cloud of dust” style of game with Martin between the tackles, keeping Manning on the sideline. It won’t work though. I believe the Broncos will blow TB out on Sunday. I’m betting Denver minus the 7 points!
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