Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#101 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 51 vs.
#102 Carolina Panthers -7
Thursday, September 12, 2019 at 8:20pm EDT
Bank Of America Stadium, Charlotte
Written by Chris Kubala

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A pair of NFC South rivals in search of their first victory of the season kick off week 2 of the NFL slate in the Tar Heel State. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the road as they make the trip north to face the Carolina Panthers Thursday night. Tampa Bay was upended 31-17 at home by San Francisco in their season opener Sunday afternoon. Carolina ended up on the short end of a 30-27 decision at home against the Rams Sunday afternoon. The Panthers lead the all-time regular season series 23-14 but the teams split two meetings last season. Carolina took a 42-28 win at home on November 4, 2018 before Tampa Bay answered with a 24-17 home victory in the most recent matchup on December 2, 2018.

A Quick Review of the Season to Date

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Review

Tampa Bay had their chances in their season opener but an inability to protect the ball doomed them to a loss. The Buccaneers now try to regroup and earn a division victory in the process: they have dropped five of their last six visits to Carolina. Tampa Bay held a 7-6 advantage at the half but allowed two touchdowns in 47 seconds early in the second half to go down 20-7: they didn’t get closer than three the rest of the way. The Buccaneers had a chance as they were inside the 10-yard line with six minutes to play but couldn’t punch it in for the go-ahead touchdown: after settling for a field goal to make it 20-17, things went south.

The Buccaneers did own a 295-256 advantage in total offense in the game and picked up 21 first downs while allowing 17. Tampa Bay was narrowly edge in time of possession by a 30:04 to 29:56 margin but the turnover game is what proved to be the difference. The Buccaneers forced two takeaways but turned the ball over four times. In what was the biggest telling stat, the 49ers intercepted Jameis Winston three times: by means of comparison, they gave up 35 touchdown passes while picking off only two passes all of last season. Two of those three interceptions were returned for touchdowns, leading to the margin of victory.

Carolina Panthers Review

Carolina battled tooth and nail with the high-octane offense that the defending NFC champion Rams bring to the table but ended up falling a little bit short. The Panthers hope that a second straight home game, especially on a short week, will help them get the win and even their record. Carolina fell behind 13-0 in the second quarter but didn’t mail it in: they drew within three points twice in the fourth quarter but couldn’t complete the comeback. The Panthers got within three for the last time on an Alex Armah one-yard touchdown run with 1:58 to play but the Rams recovered the ensuing onside kick to run out the clock.

The Panthers held their own offensively as they were edged 349-343 in total offense in the contest. First downs were similarly close as the Rams owned a 23-22 edge but the other stats were important and went the way of the visitors. Carolina saw Los Angeles control the clock by a 33:16 to 26:44 margin and turned the ball over three times while forcing just one takeaway. The Panthers allowed only seven points off the turnovers but also hurt themselves by turning it over on their opening possession after reaching the Los Angeles’ 26-yard line. Carolina missed a 53-yard field goal wide right in the second quarter as well, so their mistakes proved costly in a tight game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense vs. Carolina Panthers Defense

Running the Ball: Who Has the Edge?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense

The run game for Tampa Bay had its ups and downs in the season opener. The Buccaneers looked to establish the ground game in order to set up the pass but when things went to them going down multiple scores, the game plan shifted. Tampa Bay is going to need to establish the ground game in order to control the clock and keep the Carolina offense off of the field. On the bright side, the Buccaneers didn’t turn the ball over via the ground game. Of course, they didn’t get the win either.

 

Ronald Jones II led the Buccaneers on the ground as he ran the ball 13 times for 75 yards. He’s still considered the #2 back in the system behind Peyton Barber, who had eight carries for 33 yards. Jameis Winston ran the ball five times for 13 yards in the contest. Tampa Bay’s longest run in the contest was a 16-yard run by Jones II. The Buccaneers did pick up seven first downs via the ground game: Jones II had four, Barber two and Winston one in the contest.

Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense

Carolina had a tough time trying to contain the run in the season opener. Facing the Rams is a challenge because Los Angeles has a trio of talented backs, which allowed them to rotate guys to keep them fresh. In the waning stages of the game, that proved to be the Panthers’ undoing. Carolina gave up 32 carries for 166 yards and two scores in the contest as the rotation of backs did them in. The Panthers have to be better at stopping the ground game to get off the field and set their offense up with better field position.

 

Shaq Thompson was tied for the team lead in tackles with nine (seven solo) along with safety Tre Boston. Linebackers Luke Kuechly (eight tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss), Kawann Short (three tackles, tackle for loss) and rookie Brian Burns (two tackles, tackle for loss) were effective. Gerald McCoy (tackle) needs to step up, especially facing his former team in this contest. Carolina gave up two runs of at least 20 yards in the opener and gave up nine first downs via the ground game.

Who Has the Edge?

This one is going to be a test for the Panthers but the Buccaneers have to prove that they are going to commit to the run. Tampa Bay gave the ball more to Jones II even though Barber is the de facto starter at the running back position. Carolina was gashed on the ground but there’s a difference between facing this duo of the Buccaneers and the three-headed monster of Todd Gurley II, Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson. You have to think that the Panthers will be better suited to contain Tampa Bay, being they are division rivals. Carolina held the Buccaneers to 82 yards rushing in their week 9 win last season and 95 yards in their week 13 defeat. The Panthers get the upper hand here.

Advantage: Carolina Panthers

Aerial Assault: Who Has the Upper Hand?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense

Tampa Bay is going to have to be better than they were in all facets of the passing game than we saw in the opener. The Buccaneers were sloppy and ineffective at times: all four of their turnovers came on passing plays, leading to two defensive touchdowns for San Francisco. Last season, the 49ers generated a total of seven turnovers, including two interceptions, all season. San Francisco picked up more than half their takeaway total and more picks than they had in 2018 just in this contest thanks to poor decisions by the Buccaneers.

 

Jameis Winston was 20 of 36 passing for 194 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in the contest. In addition, he was sacked three times. Dare Ogunbowale (33 yards) and tight end O.J. Howard (32 yards) each had four receptions to lead the team. Chris Godwin added three receptions for 53 yards and a score. Tampa Bay has to get more from Mike Evans (two catches, 28 yards on five targets) in order to have success. The Buccaneers had just one pass play cover at least 20 yards: Godwin had a 28-yard reception.

Carolina Panthers Passing Defense

Carolina was fairly effective in pass defense, though some of that had nothing to do with their own efforts. The Panthers were hurt by the run game of Los Angeles, which was part of it, while the other part was poor execution by Jared Goff. Rather than go for an intermediate route to an open receiver, he seemed to stay locked on his primary target in an effort to force the ball in there. As a result, the Panthers allowed the Rams to complete 23 of 39 passes for 186 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

 

Cornerback James Bradberry (four tackles, tackle for loss) recorded the lone sack for the Panthers in the game. He also led the team with two pass defenses while Donte Jackson (three tackles), Javien Elliott (four tackles), Kuechly and Thompson each recorded one. Bradberry continued his solid all-around performance as he recorded the team’s lone pick in the game. The team did give up two pass plays of at least 20 yards but wasn’t burned for anything super deep as the longest pass play they allowed was 24 yards.

Who Has the Edge?

Winston just made San Francisco’s defense, which seemed allergic to forcing turnovers a season ago, look like the 1985 Chicago Bears or the Steel Curtain of the 1970s. That has to be cause for concern for the Buccaneers. Another problem for Tampa Bay was the relative lack of production from Mike Evans: he was targeted only five times in the contest and reeled in only two balls. Carolina knocked away six passes and saw Goff seem to lose focus at times in the opener. Winston gets tunnel vision himself at times and that proves to be an issue for the Buccaneers. Carolina’s veteran defense gets the edge.

Advantage: Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers Offense vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense

Who Has the Edge in the Ground Game?

Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense

When you face the Panthers, you know that there’s a heavy dose of the ground game coming. Whether it’s Christian McCaffrey taking the handoff, a receiver like Curtis Samuel on end arounds, sweeps or reverses or simply Cam Newton running off RPOs or other designed scrambles, there’s plenty of ways to move the ball on the ground. Even with the score taking some of their run-heavy scheme away against the Rams, they still were effective on the ground. Carolina ran the ball 23 times for 127 yards and three scores in the contest.

 

Christian McCaffrey did the bulk of the heavy lifting on the ground as he ran the ball 19 times for 128 yards and two scores. Alex Armah had one carry for one yard and a score while Chris Hogan had one carry for no yards. Cam Newton ran the ball three times for a career-low negative two yards in the contest. All told, the Panthers had one run for more than 20 yards on a McCaffrey 23-yard run and moved the sticks eight times via the ground game.

Is that too much of a workload for the 23-year old McCaffrey?

“It’s tough to take him out,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said of McCaffrey’s workload. “He doesn’t want to come out. We have to think about certain things, but when he’s playing the way he is you’ve got to keep the rhythm going.’’

“He’s probably the best dual back in the league,’’ Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. “I used to think it was David Johnson, but Christian has passed him up. As a receiver, he’s a hell of a matchup problem.’’

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense

The Buccaneers were fairly successful at preventing the 49ers from doing damage on the ground but still took the loss. Tampa Bay limited San Francisco to 98 yards on the ground on 32 carries and didn’t give up a rushing score. The Buccaneers did allow six first downs on the ground but one really can’t blame the defense as they did their part in negating San Francisco’s options on the ground. If the offense did a better job with hanging on to the ball, you have to think Tampa Bay might have picked up the win.

 

Safety Jordan Whitehead led the team with eight tackles (seven solo) in the contest. Lavonte David (seven tackles, tackle for loss), Devin White (six tackles) and Shaquil Barrett (four tackles, tackle for loss) did their share from the linebacker spots. The Buccaneers would like to see more from Ndamukong Suh (four tackles, tackle for loss) from his defensive tackle spot. The longest rush that the Buccaneers allowed was 18 yards: they gave up six first downs via the ground game in the contest.

Who Has the Edge?

Tampa Bay was good at containing the 49ers’ run game but they were facing Tevin Coleman (who left with an injury), Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert. While that trio are serviceable backs, the fact remains that McCaffrey is on an entirely different level in that department. The Panthers were extremely effective on the ground game against the Buccaneers’ defense last season, running for 179 yards in their week 9 contest and 168 yards in week 13.  McCaffrey was responsible for 185 yards and two scores in those games last year. Carolina does their damage here and that gives them the edge.

Advantage: Carolina Panthers

Who Has the Upper Hand in the Passing Attack?

Carolina Panthers Passing Offense

The Panthers had to throw more often than they likely wanted to in the opener. One has to think that ideally, Carolina will be able to dictate the tempo and control the score in this contest where the passing attack isn’t the major factor. The Panthers threw more than they wanted to in that contest and they were unable to find the end zone through the air. Carolina’s offensive line has to be better and Newton needs to take what the defense gives him as opposed to trying to force throws.

 

Newton was 25 of 38 passing for 239 yards with no touchdowns and one interception in the opener. He was sacked three times for a loss of 23 yards in the process. McCaffrey reeled in 10 balls for 91 yards as a safety valve option for Newton and the Panthers’ offense. DJ Moore hauled in seven passes for 76 yards while tight end Greg Olsen (four catches, 36 yards) and Curtis Samuel (three receptions, 32 yards) were also effective options in the passing game. The Panthers didn’t have a pass play cover more than 20 yards as their longest pass play went for 17 yards.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense

All told, Tampa Bay’s defense wasn’t all that bad in the opener as they allowed only slightly more points (17) than the offense gave the 49ers (14) in the contest. The Buccaneers kept the 49ers in check in the opener as they allowed San Francisco to complete 18 of 27 throws for 166 yards in the game. Tampa Bay was able to keep most of the throws in front of them, which made San Francisco work to sustain drives and put points on the board.

Barrett had the team’s lone sack in the contest in the contest. The Buccaneers had just two pass defenses: one was credited to the team while Vernon Hargreaves (three tackles) had the other one. Hargreaves also recorded the team’s lone interception, which he returned 15 yards for a score. The Buccaneers will have to be more aggressive, both in getting after the quarterback and making plays on the ball, in order to have success. Tampa Bay gave up two pass plays that covered at least 20 yards.

Who Has the Edge?

Newton didn’t have success throwing the ball deep against the Rams and his intermediate accuracy was spotty. He targeted Olsen nine times but the once-prolific duo connected on just four of those throws in the game. The Panthers are going to have to stretch the field vertically at some point to try and keep opposing defenses honest. The short passing game that the Panthers employed plays to the Buccaneers’ strengths as they kept San Francisco in check in the passing department. If Carolina plays that style here, this skews toward Tampa Bay.

Advantage: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Special Teams, Coaching, & Intangibles

Special Teams

Advantage: Carolina Panthers

Coaching

Advantage: Carolina Panthers

Intangibles

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay is 17th in the league in scoring offense with 17 points per game on the year. The Buccaneers are 25th in the league in total offense with 295 yards per game and 27th by averaging 4.5 yards per play. Tampa Bay is 26th in the league in scoring defense by giving up 31 points per contest. The Buccaneers are a solid sixth by allowing 256 yards per game and stand fifth in yards per play as they give up 4.3 yards per play. Tampa Bay struggles in the takeaway/giveaway department as they rank tied for 24th with a -2 margin in that category.

The Buccaneers are sputtering in the red zone as they are 25th in the league by converting just 25 percent of their chances on the year. Tampa Bay is first in the league as they have allowed zero percent of their opponents’ trips into the red zone to end in touchdowns. The Buccaneers are tied for 16th in third-down conversions by converting 45.45 percent of their opportunities this season. Tampa Bay is 11th in third-down defense by limiting their opponents to 38.46 percent success on those plays. The Buccaneers are 17th in the league in time of possession by holding the ball for 49.89 percent of the time this season.

Rookie kicker Matt Gay hit both his extra point attempts and his lone field goal try on the season with a long of 31 yards. Bradley Pinion averaged only 21 yards on his two punts, including a dismal three-yard boot on the team’s opening possession. T.J. Logan averages 20 yards on three kick returns with a long of 21 while Bobo Wilson gained no yards on his lone punt return this season.

Carolina Panthers

Carolina is 13th in the league in scoring offense by putting up 27 points per game. The Panthers are 22nd in total offense with 343 yards per contest and stand 21st in yards per play with an average of 5.4 yards a snap. Carolina is 23rd in scoring defense as they allow 30 points per game. On the season, the team is 15th in total defense by allowing 349 yards per game and 9th in yards per play allowed as they give up 4.9 yards per play on average. Carolina is tied for 24th in the league in giveaway/takeaway with a -2 margin this season.

The Panthers are tied for 1st in the league in scoring touchdowns in the red zone as they cash in 100 percent of their chances. Defensively, Carolina has work to do as they are 21st in red zone defense by allowing 75 percent of drives to reach the red zone to end in touchdowns. The Panthers are in the middle of the pack in third down conversions, ranking 16th by converting 45.45 percent of their third down situations. Carolina’s defense is only 24th in those situations as they hold the opposition to 52.94 percent success on their third downs. The Panthers are 28th in the league in time of possession by holding the ball 44.56 percent of the time this season.

Rookie kicker Joey Slye is two of three on field goals and three of three on extra points with a long of 52. Michael Palardy has punted four times, averaging 48.5 yards per kick, though his net average is 38.5 yards as the Panthers allowed 19 yards on two punt returns. He also had a touchback along with one punt downed inside the 20-yard line. Ray-Ray McCloud III averages 25.5 yards per return on two kick returns and 12 yards on two punt returns on the year.

Who Has the Edge?

Tampa Bay played solid defense in their season opener but the fact remains that they found a way to lose in that contest. The Buccaneers struggled on special teams and they have to improve on that facet. At least Tampa Bay may have solved their kicking woes with the addition of Gay to the roster. Carolina is trying to get by with a rookie kicker with Graham Gano on the shelf as well. The Panthers have to be better about getting off the field on third downs as they struggled with that against the Rams. Given the way most of the numbers here are relatively similar, this one is a wash.

Advantage: Push

Final Outlook – Time to place those bets!

Both teams took home losses in their respective openers. Tampa Bay played well enough to win on defense but their offense’s inability to hang on to the ball proved to be their undoing. Carolina’s offense was sharp in the opener but they struggled to get off the field on third down and was gashed on the ground by the Rams’ trio of talented backs. That makes it interesting to see how things unfold.

Tampa Bay re-signed safety Andrew Adams, who picked off Newton three times last season, and it will be interesting if he will be in the mix for this game. Tampa Bay’s defense is going to be pushed by McCaffrey but one has to be concerned if he’s hauling in a ton of passes. Carolina is 0-10 in games where he catches at least seven balls and 3-6 in games where he has at least 20 touches. Keeping him the focal point via the ground game without having to make him the primary target in the passing game is important. Tampa Bay has to do a better job of holding onto the ball compared to their opener. Carolina’s offense has the upper hand and even with Tampa Bay’s defense, it’s hard to have faith in Winston right now. His three interceptions turned the game for the Buccaneers and he has to prove he can make better reads in crucial situations.

The Buccaneers are 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 road games vs. a team with a losing home record, 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games after allowing more than 30 points in their previous game and 0-5 ATS in their last five Thursday games. Last season, we saw the teams combine for 70 points in the first meeting and 41 in the second meeting. We saw entertaining contests in the opener but expecting a ton of points on short rest may be too much to ask.

The under is 6-1 in Tampa Bay’s last seven overall, 5-1 in their last six on grass, 5-1 in their last six against NFC teams, 5-1 in their last six games in week 2 and 4-1 in their last 5 games after allowing more than 30 points in their previous game. Carolina has seen the under go 4-0 in their last 4 vs. a team with a losing record, 4-1 in their last 5 games on grass and 4-1 in their last 5 games following a straight up loss. The teams have seen the under go 5-1 in their last six meetings: that trend continues here.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19, Carolina Panthers 28
Updated: please continue below for details and new prediction.

Updated on Sep 12 at 2:00pm EDT

Things are relatively quiet on the injury front for both teams, which means that there won’t be much in the way of excuses if one side doesn’t show up in this contest. Tampa Bay’s biggest injury is to backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who has a shoulder injury and has been ruled out for this contest. That means that if Winston goes down with an injury, the Buccaneers would have to turn the offense over to Ryan Griffin. The other big name on Tampa Bay’s injury report is no surprise as Jason Pierre-Paul remains out with a fractured neck: he could well miss the entire season.

Carolina doesn’t have a ton of injuries to report for this contest either. Bruce Irvin will miss his second straight game as he is recovering from a hamstring injury. In his stead, you’ll likely see first-round pick Brian Burns mixing and matching with Marquis Haynes. The other big injury that the Panthers are dealing with comes in the form of starting tight end Greg Olsen, who is dealing with a back issue. He’s questionable for this contest: if he’s limited or doesn’t take the field, Carolina will turn to some combination of Ian Thomas and Chris Manhertz. Backup strong safety Rashaan Gaulden is questionable with an undisclosed injury.

The weather shouldn’t be a factor in this one as the forecast looks good for the teams and fans alike. Game time temperature is expected to be in the mid 80s with mostly clear skies. There is reportedly no precipitation in the forecast for this contest, which should make for an entertaining tilt between division foes. The forecast has winds blowing from the north between five and 10 miles per hour, which shouldn’t be a factor in keeping the passing game in check for either side.

When the initial lines opened for this contest, Carolina was a five-point favorite with the over/under set at 51 points. Earlier this week, the line saw Carolina favored by 6.5 points with the over/under sitting at 50 points. As of Thursday afternoon, there’s been no movement on the line as the Panthers still are favored by 6.5 points. The over/under has ticked down slightly as it has moved to 49 points in this contest. Currently, the moneyline shows Carolina as a hefty -300 to -320 favorite while Tampa Bay can be found as a +240 to +260 underdog depending on the sportsbook. As of this writing, 70 percent of the bets are backing Carolina -6.5 points. When it comes to the moneyline, a hefty 97 percent of the wagers are backing the Panthers at home. Meanwhile, 65 percent of bets are projecting this one to fall short of the total.

Tampa Bay’s defense did a stellar job of keeping the 49ers in check in the opener but was done in by Winston’s interceptions, especially the two pick sixes, and Bradley Pinion’s struggles in the punting game. Those issues gift wrapped the 49ers 17 points, which was more than the margin of victory in the contest. If Tampa Bay plays the way they did on that side of the ball here, the Panthers are going to have their struggles moving the ball. Newton has to show he can hit the deep ball and silence questions that he’s not as effective as he was before he suffered that shoulder injury last season.

With that said, it can be tough to try and bottle up McCaffrey as he’s clearly the focal point of the Panthers’ offense, especially given the fact that Newton is still trying to get up to speed. That’s the challenge that Tampa Bay’s defense faces. The Buccaneers have to be cleaner offensively as Winston gets up to speed with Arians’ offensive attack. One interesting stat: Arians’s teams are 3-7 in their last 10 road contests as an underdog. In the seven losses, the Buccaneers failed to cover in any of them. The defense keeps Tampa Bay in it but Carolina takes advantage of mistakes and home field advantage to get the victory.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17, Carolina Panthers 27

Written By Chris Kubala

Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in-depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. Now he is writing for our team here at Winners @ Whiners. Chris keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college. He is also very knowledgeable in the NHL, the NBA, college basketball and MLB. If you want consistency, then be sure and check out Chris’ content daily.