Monday Night Football Picks: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers Odds & Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 10/6/2016
I was right where it counted but wrong in one respect on last week's Monday Night Football game between the Giants and Vikings in Minneapolis. I hit on giving the Giants the 5 points and going "under" the total of 43.5 in the Vikings' 24-10 win. But I also thought we would have our first competitive, single-digit game on Monday nights this season and I obviously missed on that one. Could we finally have a dramatic ending this week when Tampa Bay visits NFC South rival Carolina? Really depends on whom the Carolina quarterback is. More on that in a minute.
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Did I think Carolina was a bit overrated last year? I did, and in fact took the Broncos and the points in the Super Bowl. But clearly the Panthers were still a really good team and were expected to be again in 2016 with the return of top receiver Kelvin Benjamin from missing all of 2015. But the Cats are a stunning 1-3 and have been dominated the past two weeks. They have won the NFC South three years in a row but now are essentially 2.5 games out of the division lead of Atlanta already. Carolina is now +150 for the division at BetOnline and +1100 to repeat as NFC champion.
As for Tampa Bay? Not a shock the Bucs are 1-3, although I thought they might finish around .500 this season. The move of firing coach Lovie Smith after last season and promoting offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has backfired thus far. Tampa is +1400 to win the South for the first time since 2007. The Bucs are actually in better division shape than Carolina because they have a win over the Falcons.
Bucs at Panthers Betting Story Lines
I really thought Tampa QB Jameis Winston would play at a Pro Bowl level this year -- yes, I realize he made it last year but it was because a bunch of other QBs pulled out as they always do. Winston was terrific as a rookie after a bit of a slow start and then torched the Falcons for 71.9 percent completions, 281 yards, four TDs and a rating of 125.1 in the Week 1 31-24 victory at the Georgia Dome. But it has largely been all downhill since. Last week, albeit against an excellent Denver defense, Winston was just 17-for-35 for 179 yards and two picks. The only QB with a worse rating and more than Winston's eight interceptions is the Jets' Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bucs promoted Koetter because of his work last year with Winston, who also has lost two fumbles. Tampa Bay's 10 turnovers this season have resulted in 51 points for the opposing team.
It hasn't helped Winston's cause that Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin hurt his hamstring in Week 2 and hasn't played since. He won't here. Not a coincidence that Martin had 96 yards from scrimmage in Tampa's lone win. Charles Sims has been so-so in his place and is banged up (should play though). Tampa will be without its best defensive player in this game in four-time Pro Bowl tackle Gerald McCoy. He left in the second quarter last week with a calf injury. The Bucs already have been missing starting defensive end Robert Ayers, who suffered an ankle sprain in the season opener and aggravated it in Week 2. In addition, rookie end Noah Spence hurt his shoulder vs. Denver and is likely out.
As for Newton, I don't know if he was showboating or didn't see a defender when he lackadaisically was trying to score on a 2-point conversion in last week's 48-33 loss in Atlanta. Whatever it was, Newton paid the price as a Falcons linebacker blasted him on the fourth-quarter play and knocked Newton out of the game with a concussion. Needless to say, this line is somewhat dependent (yes, sarcasm) on the status of the reigning NFL MVP. Maybe the extra day helps Newton, but he didn't practice as of Thursday. Derek Anderson is a solid No. 2 and was 17-for-23 for 172 yards, two TDs and two picks vs. Atlanta. He actually went 2-0 against the Buccaneers in 2014, his only two starts in the past two seasons -- the only two regular-season games Newton has ever missed. I'm not saying Anderson is better than Newton because that's silly, but Newton is playing nowhere near last year's level other than Week 2 vs. the 49ers.
Other injuries to monitor for Carolina are to left tackle Michael Oher, who missed last week with a concussion, and running back Jonathan Stewart. He has missed the past two with hamstring troubles. Linebacker Thomas Davis and cornerback James Bradberry both were banged up vs. Atlanta but should play .That Carolina defense badly misses Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman, whom the team let leave for nothing. Think Norman allows a 300-yard receiving game like Julio Jones had against the Cats last Sunday? Carolina has been terrible on throws over 15 yards this season. Bene Benwikere was the guy responsible for most of Jones' yardage.
Bucs at Panthers Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , there is no line or total posted yet -- this is a first. Usually by Thursday even with an injury like Newton's there will be something. I did see an early line of Panthers -7, but that's obviously subject to change. Carolina will still be favored regardless. I'd assume the total would be low-to-mid 40s. Tampa Bay is 1-3 against the spread (1-1 on the road) and 2-2 "over/under" (1-1 on road). Carolina is 1-3 ATS (1-1 at home) and 3-1 O/U (1-1 at home).
The Bucs are 4-0 ATS in their past four following a double-digit loss at home. They are 1-6 ATS in their past seven vs. the NFC and 0-4 ATS in the past four when facing teams below .500. The Panthers are 6-2 ATS in their past eight following an ATS loss. They are 11-5 ATS in their past 16 vs. the NFC. The over is 5-1 in Tampa's past six following a loss. It's 5-0 in Carolina's past five after a defeat. The over is 5-2 in Carolina's last seven Monday night games. The Bucs are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings.
Bucs at Panthers Betting Prediction
Carolina has won six straight in the series, and neither was close last year. I have to make this pick blind. If the Bucs had Martin and McCoy, I'd probably take whatever points I could get. But Anderson is a capable guy and this should stay under 7 points so I'd give the points. Probably over the total because neither defense is playing well.
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