The NFC South is a crazy place these days – and both the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers would love nothing more than to stake their claim to top spot in the division as they meet Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Both teams are coming off tough road losses, with the Panthers falling 17-3 to the Bears in Chicago and the Buccaneers seeing a late rally fall short in a 30-27 setback in Buffalo.
Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Point spread: Buccaneers -2.5 Date: Sunday, October 29, 1 p.m. ET Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
Point Spread and Betting Analysis
There isn’t much separating these teams; both come in on multi-game losing skids, with just two points separating them in overall scoring differential. The Bucs are favored by just under a field goal, but have covered just once in their previous six games against conference opponents and are 0-3-1 ATS in their last four games following a straight-up loss. Carolina has covered in five of its last six road games, with last week’s loss the only blemish in that span.
Sports Interaction bettors are predictably split, with 53 percent leaning toward the hosts. And in what has become a weekly trend, 67 percent are taking the over on the 45-point total. Carolina is 4-3 against the total in seven games, while the Bucs are 4-2 O/U on the season; that said, these teams have gone under the total in five of their previous seven meetings – including both encounters last season, when they combined for 64 points in the two games.
The Panthers thought they were shoring up their mediocre running game when they drafted Christian McCaffrey in the first round this past spring. Yet, while McCaffrey has been an asset in the passing game (44 receptions, 329 yards, two TDs), his 2.5 YPC average on 45 rushes is a major concern. The Panthers as a team are averaging just 3.4 yards per attempt, which has put more pressure on quarterback Cam Newton to make things happen through the air.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Panthers aren’t the only team struggling to make inroads on the ground; the Buccaneers have been even more anemic, averaging just over 80 rushing yards per game on a 3.7 YPC average. A combination of game flow, suspect run blocking and rust have limited Doug Martin to 176 yards in three games since returning from suspension – and things don’t get any easier against a vaunted Carolina defense allowing just 3.7 YPC on the season.
Panthers vs. Buccaneers prediction
Buccaneers 20, Panthers 17