2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Road Schedule Odds with Expert Picks and Predictions
Every year around this time, I tend to pick two clubs that might be the break out team/reach the playoffs after not doing one of the two the previous season. I usually get at least one right. Which means often one wrong. My wrong last year was Tampa Bay in the NFC.
I wasn't exactly going out on a limb with the 2017 Bucs. They were 6-10 in 2015, the final year of Lovie Smith's tenure, but jumped to 9-7 the next year under offensive-minded (i.e. opposite of Smith) first-year coach Dirk Koetter. Jameis Winston was prepared to take the step to superstardom, and Tampa had surrounded him with some new toys like receiver DeSean Jackson and first-round rookie tight end O.J. Howard. The defense also looked like it was rising. Shoot, I though the Bucs might win the NFC South for the first time since 2007.
Instead, Winston took a step back and so did the Bucs, dropping to 5-11 and last in the NFL's deepest division. Howard was solid enough for a rookie, but Jackson disappointed. The running game was a disaster as Doug Martin was a complete bust after getting a huge new extension. The defense was the NFL's worst in terms of yards allowed.
Entering 2018, Koetter is the co-favorite to be the first coach fired at 5Dimes along with Mr. 1-31 Hue Jackson of Cleveland. There's even a question about whether the Bucs will keep Winston around after this season if he regresses again in the wake of some off-field issues. The former Heisman Trophy winner will be suspended the first three games for allegedly groping an Uber driver. Winston swears he didn't do it, but he also had some terrible allegations involving women at Florida State.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is a solid enough backup. May not lose you games but won't win them. The running game remains a question mark. Martin is long gone, with Peyton Barber and rookie Ronald Jones likely to share time in the backfield. The receiving duo of Mike Evans and Jackson is very good as is the tight end duo of Howard and Cameron Brate. Tampa Bay beefed up the D-Line with Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry and first-round pick Vita Vea. There's plenty of talent here, but like just about every team it's on the quarterback.
Tampa Bay was 1-7 on the road last season, 2-5-1 against the spread and 6-2 "over/under." The Bucs travel to three playoff teams from 2017, which is the minimum amount for this team since the other three in the division all made it: New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina. The home schedule is much tougher in this writer's opinion (even with the Browns on it). I project a 2-6 road mark. Odds listed for the home team.
Sept. 9 at Saints (-9.5): Tampa lost in New Orleans 30-10 in Week 9 last year but closed the regular season with a 31-24 win over the Saints. Thus, this will be the first time the Bucs open the regular season with the same opponent they faced in the final regular-season game the year prior since 2006-07 (Seattle). Key trend: This line jumped as much as a field goal at some sites with the Winston news. Bucs are 6-4 ATS in past 10 as at least a 7-point road dog in series.
Sept. 30 at Bears (-2.5): Short week for the Bucs off hosting the Steelers on Monday in Week 3. I truly believe that Tampa Bay will be 0-3 here after losing in New Orleans and home to Philly and Pittsburgh. If the Bucs lose this ahead of their bye in Winston's first game back, well, I may go put some money on Koetter being the first coach fired. This is the fifth consecutive season the Buccaneers and Bears have played but first at Soldier Field since 2014. Key trend: Bucs 6-4 ATS in past 10 at Chicago.
Oct. 14 at Falcons (-7): With that early bye, this starts a stretch of 12 straight games for Tampa. Far from ideal, but then last year it played 16 in a row due to a fluke Week 1 bye. The Bucs' defense gave up 926 all-purpose yards in two games against Atlanta in 2017, more than any other team in the league. Tampa lost at the Falcons, 34-20 in Week 12. Key trend: Bucs 4-3 ATS as a 7-point road dog in series.
Oct. 28 at Bengals (-1.5): Tampa's first potential cold-weather game. The Bucs have won their past four in Cincinnati. In many ways the Bengals are the Bucs of the AFC: Good talent, but QB (Andy Dalton) and coach (Marvin Lewis) with questionable futures. Key trend: Bucs 5-5 ATS in past 10 as a road dog of 2 points or fewer.
Nov. 4 at Panthers (-5.5): Last divisional road game for Tampa. The NFC South was formed in 2002 and this is just second time the Bucs will have faced all three divisional opponents away before playing any at home. Tampa lost 22-19 in Charlotte in Week 16 last year. Key trend: Bucs 5-5 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Nov. 18 at Giants (-3): The Bucs acquired Pierre-Paul and a 2018 fourth-round pick (No. 102 overall) for 2018 third- (No. 69) and fourth-round picks (No. 108) from the Giants. The move caught JPP by surprise and he already said he has circled this game. I'd be worried if I were Eli Manning. Key trend: Bucs 7-3 ATS in past 10 at NFC East foes.
Dec. 16 at Ravens (-6): Could this be an all-Heisman matchup of Winston vs. Lamar Jackson? Might be if the Ravens are out of the playoff hunt by now and turn the team over from Joe Flacco to their rookie. Tampa is 1-1 all-time at the Ravens. Key trend: Bucs 7-1 ATS at AFC North foes.
Dec. 23 at Cowboys (-6): The Bucs are 1-11 all-time at Dallas, with their victory coming in a 10-6 game in 2001. The last time these teams played was in a Sunday Night Football game in 2016, also at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys won 26-20 behind a big night from Ezekiel Elliott. Key trend: Bucs 1-8 ATS in Dallas (far back as trends go).
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