Two teams with drastically different expectations face off on Thursday Night Football. Both the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 0-1 on the season though they went about it in dramatically different ways. The Panthers put up a spirited effort against the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams before losing 30-27 as +1.5 home underdogs. Running back Christian McCaffrey put up a beastly performance 19 carries 128 yards 2 touchdowns rushing along with 10 receptions for 81 yards receiving. McCaffrey might just be the most unstoppable player in the NFL right now.
The Tampa Bay Bucs actually generated some betting interest in Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers. The game started reasonably well for the Bucs as they held San Francisco to a pair of first half field goals and actually took the lead into a locker room thanks to a Vernon Hargreaves Pick 6. But leave it to Jameis ‘The Seafood in My Pants Means I Care‘ Winston to do what he does best–snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. San Francisco took the lead on a 39 yard Jimmy Garoppolo touchdown pass to go up 13-7 and then Winston really went to work throwing a pair of interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. That negated a decent drive for a TD by Winston and the Bucs and the Niners went on to win 31-17.
Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Ariens has a reputation for being a ‘quarterback whisperer’ in addition to being a solid head coach. He may have met his match in Winston who is in the final year of his rookie contract. The team would likely be better off starting third string Ryan Griffin (backup Blaine Gabbert is out this week due to a shoulder injury) but they’ll leave it in Winston’s not so capable hands for awhile longer. It could get ugly for Tampa Bay really fast–they host the New York Giants next week but after that it’s a slew of nasty teams as they face the Rams, Panthers again, Saints twice, Titans and Seahawks in six of their next 7 games. Even their 11/10 game against Arizona isn’t looking like a ‘sure thing’ anymore if Kyler Murray can continue to improve.
This is likely a game where you should ‘hold your nose’ and take the points with the Bucs. Carolina has covered just 1 of their last 5 as a divisional home chalk. They’ve also failed to cover 6 of their last 7 spots as a favorite in all settings with 4 games straight up losses. I just can’t do it. Bucs on a 3-7-4 ATS run as an away dog and lost 42-28 to the Panthers in Charlotte last season. No way the Bucs’ defense can stop Christian McCaffrey. The line on this game is essentially the same as last year’s meeting at Bank of America Stadium and there’s no reason to think that Winston will improve playing in prime time on the road. Five of the last six head to head have gone ‘Under’ the total.