Week 17 NFL Picks: Back Buccaneers To Cover +11.5 vs. Panthers

Swinging Johnson

Thursday, December 31, 2015 12:28 AM GMT

The Bucs’ season will come to a close after Week 17 while the Panthers have Super Bowl aspirations in their sights despite their quest for a perfect season vanquished last week in Atlanta. Let’s review what the NFL odds makers are offering in this NFC South tilt.

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":2837238, "sportsbooksIds":[169,1096,93,19,92,238], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]

NFL Pick: Buccaneers +11.5 

Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

 

Tampa Bay Bucs (6-9 SU, 7-8 ATS)
The Bucs have dropped four of their last five contests with the latest casualty coming at the hands of the Chicago Bears. The NFL odds makers had installed the Bucs as three-point home favorites but they were indeed the wrong club to back in your NFL picks because the Bears proved to be the sharp side with a 26-21 victory on Tampa’s home turf. The Bucs are a young team and youth coupled with inexperience oftentimes leads to costly mistakes as it did this past Sunday. Tampa Bay committed three turnovers including a critical interception by rookie quarterback Jameis Winston at the Bears 12-yard line that erased a nine play, 74 yard scoring drive.

Though the Bucs are already making vacation plans the season was not all bad. Jameis Winston looks to be the real deal as he tossed for 295 yards on Sunday and moved up the ladder to become the fourth most prolific rookie passer since the merger in 1970. In addition, running back Doug Martin is vying for the league’s rushing record with 1,354 yards under his belt as he heads into Week 17. The growing pains of a young, promising squad are there in full display but the future definitely looks brighter than it has in a good long time for this moribund franchise.

 

Carolina Panthers (14-1 SU, 10-5 ATS)
Carolina’s bid for a perfect season came to an abrupt halt in Atlanta last week as the Panthers fell 20-13 to a Falcons team that started out on fire and stumbled mightily midway through the season. Cam Newton, making a case for himself as an MVP candidate all season long, had a subpar outing with only 142 passing yards, a costly fumble at the end of the game and held without a touchdown pass for only the second time this season.

The Panthers have plenty to play for in their final game of the regular season. Despite their 14-1 record they are not a lock to be the number one seed in the NFC and enjoy home field advantage throughout the postseason. The Arizona Cardinals will become the top seed in the NFC if they defeat the Seahawks at home and the Panthers fall to the Bucs. Both teams would then end the season with a 14-2 record but the tiebreaker would go to the Cardinals. Nevertheless both clubs are guaranteed a valuable first round bye.

 

Betting Analysis
There is no doubt in my mind that the squarest play on the board will be laying the considerable lumber on the Panthers on their home turf against a relatively weak opponent in the Tampa Bay Bucs. Carolina will boast a full complement of starters actually taking the field instead of taking the afternoon off, as securing that top seed is really quite a big deal if you consider the following:

Fifty percent of number one seeds have advanced to the Super Bowl since 1990, while only 26 percent of number two seeds have done the same.

That stat alone is enough to make the Panthers want this game as badly as any they have played this season. But they wanted a perfect season and that dream was shattered last week and so too could this one. The Panthers are 5-0 straight up and 4-1 against the spread over their last five meetings with the Bucs. However, this has the markings of a back door cover written all over it. The Panthers may come into this one a bit flat after their loss to the Falcons and despite their 37-23 win earlier in the season at Tampa Bay this one will be closer.

Consider the following betting trends:

  • The road team is 65-39 ATS in Buccaneers games since 2009.

  • Bucs’ coach Lovie Smith is 9-1 ATS as a divisional underdog of seven or more points.

  • The Panthers are 2-8-1 ATS in their last 11 games after accumulating less than 150 yards passing in their previous game.

  • The Buccaneers are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games as an underdog of 3 ½ -10 points.

Don’t be a square, play a young Bucs team with plenty left to prove. The Panthers may get the win but Tampa Bay gets the cover.