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Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Point Spread - Pick

Carolina Panthers (4-3 SU, 3-4 ATS) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4 SU, 1-4-1 ATS)
Week 8 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 1PM EST
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
TV: Fox

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: CAR +2/TB -2
Over/Under Total: 44

The Carolina Panthers come to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday for an NFC South matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Neither team has been having a good time of it lately, with Carolina dropping their second straight in an ugly 17-3 loss to the Bears on Sunday. At 4-3, the optimism from their 4-1 has really dissipated, as they look for a positive development in Tampa against a Bucs bunch that has dropped three straight to fall to 2-4. With their margin for error narrowing, they are also in dire need of a win. On Sunday, with just over three minutes left in the game, the Bucs took a 27-20 lead, only to yield two late Buffalo scores, losing a tough one, 30-27.

It's hard to say what has gone wrong for the Bucs, as the issues are numerous. A lot of factors contributed, like the delay to the season with a hurricane looming over Florida in week one, some tough road spots, Doug Martin being suspended, poor placekicking, inconsistent play at quarterback, or a combination of all of it. Whatever the case, a promising season has seen things not come off right, hence the 2-4 record. Their last three games were close affairs, but they didn't get wins and in this bottom-line business, that's what it's all about.

Jameis Winston wasn't bad on Sunday, but two turnovers were costly. He still threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns. He was also able to make a real connection with rookie tight end OJ Howard, who had 2 TD catches and 98 yards. He can be a real weapon moving forward, along with a growing 1-2 punch at wide receiver with DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans. Running back Doug Martin was quiet on Sunday, but adds a threat in the run-game, something they lack without him. TE Cameron Brate is a good target for Winston, as well, and on the right day, a lot of different players can shine on this offense. Still, turnovers, mistakes, general immaturity, and inconsistency have been a thorn in their side and they need to get things clicking better here soon.

The Tampa defense has given up 30 or more points in three of their last five games and hasn't always shown a lot of mettle late in games, especially this past Sunday. When up by 7 with just over three minutes left and when your team desperately needs a win, you have to be able to avoid getting scored on twice. And they couldn't do it. It comes down to little moments like that over the course of the season and so far, they've been coming up short in those key sequences. They have juice in the front seven, with Gerald McCoy and Chris Baker up-front, with Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David manning the middle. But their secondary is pretty awful, with young Vernon Hargreaves going through growing pains, Brent Grimes apparently receding, while safeties Chris Conte and Robert McClain haven't really been up-to-snuff. Those are the problems that don't go away easily.

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In a bit of an erratic NFL season where teams seem to switching form from week to week or even mid-game in some cases, the Panthers stand out as a team that hard to read. Their defense started the season looking better than ever, before suddenly giving up a bunch of points in games. On Sunday, they held Chicago to a field goal on defense, with the other 14 points coming on defensive scores. We've also seen a Carolina offense shine some weeks and fall flat other times. Sunday, a mere field goal against the Bears was about as disgraceful as it gets.

You almost have to try to hold onto a ball for 40 minutes in a game, put up 20 first downs and almost 300 yards of offense, miss no field goals and still walk out of there with just three points. Five sacks of Cam Newton and his two picks didn't help. A bungled lateral to failing rookie Curtis Samuel didn't help, nor did another lackluster performance from the run-game. The line has been stinking in giving Newton protection or in opening up holes. Christian McCaffrey has excelled in catching little nothing dinky passes, but as far as running the ball, his contributions have been minimal. Kelvin Benjamin is on some weeks, off in others. Same for Devin Funchess and not having reliable TE Greg Olsen has also hurt. After a huge game three weeks ago, his replacement Ed Dickson has gone into deep hiding. And after getting center Ryan Kalil back, he was soon hurt again, this time with a shoulder and we'll see if he's back in there this week.

The Carolina defense has been wildly inconsistent for the most part. They started the season with a bang and soon started giving up gobs of points. The situation has stabilized a bit and again, 14 of Chicago's 17 points were gifts from the defense this past Sunday. Not having Luke Kuechly in there really hurts. Still, to hold Chicago to five first downs on offense, while allowing just 4 completions would normally qualify as a good showing. They allowed a total of two converted third downs and basically one big play on the day. Mario Addison, Kawann Short, Captain Munnerlyn, and Kyle Love all had sacks. And with Kuechly out, a better LB Shaq Thompson would help and he was good on Sunday. Big credit goes to the secondary for holding the Chicago passing-game to almost nothing, with James Bradberry, Daryl Worley, Colin Jones, and Mike Adams getting after it.

Urgency has to be a factor for both teams, with an emergency-light flashing in the heads of the Panthers and the Bucs. They each had high expectations for this season and can't afford too many more setbacks. The Bucs, in particular, are in desperate need of a win and I suspect a high level of effort from them this week, as another loss really puts them in a nearly-untenable spot. But the visiting Panthers are in danger of totally squandering a good start and after losing two straight, they will be feeling the heat, as well. We see the Bucs playing well on Sunday and notching the win and cover.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers minus 2 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Carolina vs. Tampa Bay game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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