Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Week 18 Betting Pick
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be fighting for a #2 seed in the NFC this Sunday when they host the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay has closed the season with the same form and strength as bettors witnessed last year before the Bucs put together an epic Super Bowl victory. The reigning champs have won six out of their last seven games outright and covered five out of the last seven against the spread. Simply put, the Buccaneers have made a strong case to be considered the NFC's hottest team going into the postseason.
Despite the recent momentum, the Buccaneers have some concerns brewing on the heels of several significant events. One week after losing star RB Leonard Fournette due to an interim injury, star WR Chris Godwin was lost for the season with an ACL injury. Then last week, the sports world witnessed the WR Antonio Brown debacle where the star receiver quit during the middle of their game against the New York Jets. Needless to say, the Buccaneers offense has been decimated with injuries and losses on the offensive side of the football. With backups at nearly every skill position, the Buccaneers will be 8 point favorites over the Panthers when the two NFC South rivals collide in Sunday's season finale.
Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Betting Analysis
If you have watched the Carolina Panthers in recent weeks, then you will know the Panthers have been struggling significantly during the latter part of the season. The Panthers' main issues reside at the quarterback position, where the Sam Darnold experiment has utterly failed. The Panthers even brought back former franchise QB Cam Newton earlier this year, with Darnold injured. However, Newton only proved to be in the twilight moments of his career. Instead, the offense has finally turned control back to the original starter in Darnold. Through all the quarterback issues and combined with the loss of star RB Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers offense has been downright horrible averaging just 17 points per game which is the 4th worst average in the NFL.
When the Panthers roll into Tampa Bay on Sunday, they will meet a Bucs defense that leads the NFL against the run and does a great job of creating pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Both recipes are potentially disastrous for QB Sam Darnold and this Panthers' offense. The Panthers' best hope is likely to pull this Sunday's game into a defensive battle with a depleted Bucs offense. Personally, I believe the Panthers' defensive front is underrated, but I am also unsure if their secondary can hold up against QB Tom Brady. Many can make the argument that the Bucs are significantly limited at the skill positions. However, they still have the best QB in football and have significant match-up advantages to consider. Obviously, I am not expecting scoring opportunities to come easy in this game, but I do believe the Bucs will covert the most opportunities based simply on the efficiency rates of both offenses.
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Predicting the Panthers in week 18
One thing to consider going into any late-season match-up is the "effort" factor. The Buccaneers have a lot riding on this game in terms of the NFC playoff seeding and honestly probably just getting the attention back on the field following the Antonio Brown saga that has headlined throughout the week. Meanwhile, Carolina has seemingly been checked out for weeks. The Panthers have lost six straight games, with most getting uglier by the week. Carolina has also dropped their last five games against the spread.
I would not shy away from stating this Panthers team certainly has the looks of a group that has checked out for the season, and that creates concerns surrounding if we can expect the Panthers' best effort on Sunday? Personally, I don't normally play the effort narratives because they are highly speculative and volatile. However, I must admit that I believe the Bucs have a lot to prove with their recent losses, on offense, against a team that has seemingly thrown in the white towel.
Panthers at Bucs Prediction ATS 2/9/22
I like both angles here around the match-up on paper and the "effort" narrative. Take Tampa Bay -8.5.