Carolina owns the advantage in the recent rivalry with Tampa Bay, winning the last five meetings straight up, going 4-1 against the spread. Coming off their first loss of the season the Panthers look to bounce back against the Buccaneers on Sunday in Charlotte.
Point spread: The Panthers opened as 9.5-point favorites; the total was 47 early in the week, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)
NFL pick, via Odds Shark computer: 31.6-17.6 Panthers
Why the Buccaneers can cover the spread
The Bucs, after winning three of four a while back to reach the .500 mark at 6-6, are 0-3 both SU and ATS over their last three games, mainly because they've gone sloppy. Last week, three turnovers turned into 10 Chicago points in a 26-21 loss to the Bears.
Just before that, two turnovers in St. Louis territory, plus a couple of long Rams kickoff returns, played their parts in a 31-23 defeat. And just before that, eight penalties and a key missed field goal led to a 24-17 loss to New Orleans.
Still, Tampa has outgained seven of its last eight opponents and outrushed 11 of its last 12 foes. In fact, while the Bucs lost to Carolina back in October by a score of 37-23 they actually outgained and outrushed the Panthers that day. But five turnovers, two of which turned into Carolina defensive touchdowns, proved very costly.
Why the Panthers can cover the spread
It was quite a run—18 regular-season victories in a row—but the dreams of perfection came to an end for Carolina last week in a 20-13 loss at Atlanta. The Panthers scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, but from there ran into a Falcons team looking for revenge after getting blown out by the Panthers two weeks prior 38-0.
Carolina led 10-7 until Atlanta's Matt Ryan connected with Julio Jones on a 70-yard catch-and-run score in the third quarter. Later, needing a touchdown to tie, the Panthers twice drove into Falcons territory, but a lost fumble with a minute to go ended all hopes of reaching 15-0.
Carolina got outgained by Atlanta by 105 yards; prior to that, though, the Panthers had outrushed and outgained their previous 10 opponents. Finally, while Carolina has just one loss on the season, it still needs to win this game to secure the No. 1 seed in the upcoming NFC playoffs.
Last week was probably just a bump in the road for Carolina; the Panthers, with that top seed at stake, will probably win this game. But covering double digits in a divisional bout is asking a lot. Take Tampa, plus the points.
The Buccaneers are 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS in their last five games against the Panthers.
The Panthers are 9-0 ATS in their last nine games after consecutive ATS losses.
The Buccaneers are 1-4 SU and ATS in their last five games in January.