Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS)
Week 5 NFL
Date/Time: Monday Night Football, October 10, 2016 at 8:30PM EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: TB +4.5/CAR -4.5
Over/Under Total: 44.5
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to face the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football in NFC South action from Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The Panthers are really up against it now, as the defending conference champs fell to 1-3 after losing big to the Falcons on Sunday, 48-33. They better get started and soon with the Bucs coming into town in week four. The Bucs also fell to 1-3 on the season Sunday, losing 27-7 to the Denver Broncos at home. After beating Atlanta on the road in week one, the Bucs have dropped 3 straight and look to get on the right track on Sunday.
Carolina lost one game last season and has three already in the first quarter of this season. Still, one should be hesitant to start shoveling dirt on them this early. At the same time, Sunday's loss was very disconcerting. At 1-2 heading into Sunday, they surely were gunning for the win and to fall so flat is a troubling development. Also adding to their turmoil was the exit from the game of Cam Newton, who was being looked at for concussion symptoms. Without Newton (doubtful), the Panthers will be rolling with Derek Anderson, the 6th-year Panther. He has had 30 attempts since 2014.
Most alarming was the Carolina defense. Granted, Atlanta is pretty dangerous on the right day and especially at home. But to give up 503 yards through the air to Matt Ryan is a condemning performance for this defense. They gave up 300 yards just to Julio Jones, in what was truly an awful display for what is supposed to be a pretty good defense. They have had their issues this season, but the defense really fell apart on Sunday. The secondary needs to find answers and quickly or this could get ugly. Starting corner Bene Benwickere was cut, which sends a message of how happy the coaching is with the secondary's performance. Tampa, for all their issues, could approach this game more optimistically after seeing Carolina stink it up so bad against Atlanta. For all their issues, the Bucs can take to the air.
Missing Cam Newton didn't help on offense, though the Panthers gave it a good go. Down 34-10 in the first quarter, they twice got it to within one score, before Atlanta pulled away some at the end. It hasn't been an easy season for Newton, who has taken a beating through four games. The run-game has been mostly a non-factor. And as we saw on Sunday, the defense hasn't really been helping out a ton either. Between Newton and Derek Anderson on Sunday, they put together 338 passing yards, with Fozzy Whitaker, Greg Olsen, Kelvin Benjamin, Philly Brown, and Devin Funchess all making good contributions. Still, something seems missing this season and without Jonathan Stewart and Newton, the run game could struggle.
Tampa has their own issues after a promising-looking win over the Falcons in week one. Like Carolina, their defense has been under-performing. In addition, the turnover issue on offense threatens to undermine their entire season. Jameis Winston has thrown eight picks in just 4 games, while also coughing up a few fumbles. On one hand, he has shown he can be pretty explosive with this offense aerially, with guys like Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, and others on this side of the ball. But unless he can reign in the miscues, it might not matter much at the end of the day. They had one lone TD on Sunday, granted, against a defense in Denver's that gives a lot of teams problems on offense.
The issue of Tampa's defense is a growing problem. Entering this week against Denver, they had allowed 77 points in their last two games. Against Denver, they weren't terrible and were strung out by an ineffective offense. But even rookie Paxton Lynch was able to come in after Trevor Siemian was hurt and do well in his first NFL action against this bunch, going 14-fpr-24 with 170 yards and a TD. But the TB offensive line was pretty bad again on Sunday, with Winston under a lot of pressure, And against the ever-opportunistic Denver defense, the Tampa offense made far too many mistakes to be successful or even in the game. Still, they can get to 2-3 this week and get back in the mix a bit, but will be facing a Carolina team that should be playing with some desperation.
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A lot of perception is wrapped up in a game like this. When a team is a defending conference champion and gets off to a rough start, the inkling is to forecast they will snap out of it at some point, but the league doesn't always work that way. A few years ago, the Panthers started 1-3, before peeling off 11 wins in their next 12 games. A lot of guys on this sideline have overcome a terrible start before. So even on the heels of a loss and an Atlanta track meet, one should exercise due caution before assuming this will be the Panthers team we see all season.
At home, it's hard to gauge where the Panthers really are in terms of merit heading into this week. One thing we can assume is that everyone on the team, from the players to the coaches, are extremely disgruntled and eager to atone for this start. Last season, those who doubted Carolina faced a lot of bad weeks, while those who jumped aboard the bandwagon this season have been left grasping for straws. Still, while we think Carolina deserves one more hack at it, it's not just Newton. Injuries have perhaps rendered them a spent force already in week five. I'm taking the points.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers plus 4.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Buccaneers vs. Panthers game at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!