An exciting Week 1 of the NFL regular season is in the books. Our attention now turns to an intriguing Thursday Night Football divisional matchup. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be in Carolina to take on the Panthers, a meeting of two NFC South squads who are looking to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole.
Turnovers proved to be the undoing of the Buccaneers in their season-opening home loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Jameis Winston threw three picks on the day, two of which were returned for TDs by the 49ers. As 1.5-point favorites at kickoff, Tampa Bay underperformed in the 14-point defeat.
The Panthers also opened up the season at home. They played host to the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams as 1.5-point underdogs. Carolina was playing catch-up all day, but they just couldn’t get over the hump and went on to drop a 3-point decision.
While still early in the year, the pressure is on both of these clubs to avoid falling to 0-2. Carolina is a pretty hefty home favorite, so oddsmakers are seeing a rather big gap between the two squads. Let’s take a closer look at what should be an interesting Thursday night tilt.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers, 8:20 PM EST, Thu. Sept.12, NFL
Betting odds provided by: Sportsbetting.ag
Tampa Bay vs. Carolina Pick:
The game with the 49ers remained close at the half with the visitors holding a 7-6 lead. San Francisco came out of the half with a 75-yard TD drive and followed that up with a Richard Sherman pick-six of an errant Winston pass. Tampa Bay would close the gap and make a game of it, but another interception return sealed the deal for the 49ers, who would go on to win by a score of 31-17.
Carolina and Los Angeles were scoreless after the first quarter on Sunday, but the Rams would have a strong second period to go into halftime with a 13-3 lead. The teams would trade scores in the third quarter, while the Panthers closed the gap to 23-20 in the fourth off of a TD from Christian McCaffrey. The Rams answered quickly, and a late TD from Carolina just wasn’t enough as they fell 30-27.
|Tampa Bay||5-11||396||464||4-NFC South||NA|
It was an offseason of change in Tampa Bay after last season’s disappointment. Bruce Arians is now on the sidelines to lead the way, and the hope is that he’ll be the one to make the most of Winston’s potential. There’s talent to be found on both sides of the ball, but an improvement on defense is imperative. Former New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles is on board as DC to see what he can do.
Carolina was 6-2 at the midway point of 2018 and looking like a team which would at least be in the hunt for a playoff spot. That didn’t happen. The team completely collapsed and dropped its next seven games in a row. Cam Newton was banged up last year, but fingers need to be pointed at a defense which folded as well. Newton is said to be good to go after offseason surgery, but the jury remains out on the defense.
Winston started 11 games in 2018. He completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 2,992 yards, 19 TDs and 14 picks. He has solid targets to throw to, led by Mike Evans, but questions abound on the run game. Improvement on the offensive line and defense could cure a lot of Tampa Bay’s ills. The offense didn’t get off to a great start in the opening loss, but the defense held the 49ers to 256 total yards.
The fact that Newton wasn’t right last year was evident. He threw for 24 TDs versus 13 picks, but he didn’t quite have his normal zip or accuracy. Christian McCaffrey serves as the swiss army knife of the offense, and there’s talent to be found elsewhere at the skill positions. As with Tampa Bay, improved line play and a turnaround on defense would mean a lot for the 2019 edition of the Panthers.
The teams split two meetings last season. Carolina picked up a 42-28 home win in Week 9 as 6.5-point favorites. Tampa Bay returned the favor in Week 13 with a 24-17 home win as 3.5-point underdogs. On an all-time basis, the Panthers hold a 23-14 edge over the Buccaneers.
Last season, Tampa Bay was 7-7-2 against the spread and 9-7 on totals. Carolina was 7-9 ATS and 8-8 on the Over/Under. As road underdogs, the Buccaneers were 3-3-2 ATS a season ago. The Panthers were 3-2 as home favorites in 2018.
For the season to date, both clubs are 0-1 ATS. Tampa Bay is 0-1 on totals, while Carolina is 1-0. NFL betting sites have installed Carolina as 6.5-point favorites for Thursday’s game with a projected total of 50 points.
Heading into the season, the New Orleans Saints are once again favored to win the NFC South. There’s optimism that both the Buccaneers and Panthers can show some improvement, but the latter is generally viewed as being closer to a playoff spot.
The Arians era in Tampa Bay started off with a disappointment. While we can’t overreact to the results of a single game, the concerns about Winston being a viable franchise signal caller continue to linger after Sunday’s poor performance.
The Panthers gave the defending NFC champs a run for their money, but the bottom line is that they dropped a decision on the home field. We don’t see that happening on Thursday night. Carolina has more to work with and is in better overall shape after Week 1.
We like them to win the game, but the spread is a different matter. A 6.5-point margin seems a little steep for an early-season divisional rivalry game, especially on a short week. We’ll take Tampa Bay plus the points.