Free Vegas Betting Preview & Prediction: Buccaneers vs Panthers

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The second week of the NFL season gets started with a rivalry game between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The action gets started at 8:20 EST on Thursday, September 12, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Fans can find the game on the NFL Network.

The early betting line has Carolina favored by 6.5 points at home. The over/under for the game is set at 49.5 points. Click here to check out all of this week’s NFL betting odds.

Panthers vs Buccaneers Game Preview & Betting Odds

The Bruce Arians era in Tampa did not get off to a promising start last week. The Bucs dropped their season opener at home to the 49ers 31-17. For what it’s worth, the game was a lot closer than the final score indicates. The Bucs only trailed by six in the closing minutes, but a pick-six gave San Francisco a 14-point lead with two minutes left.

Nevertheless, a loss is a loss, and now the Bucs face a challenging schedule in the weeks ahead. Tampa is on the road in three of their next four weeks with those road games coming against the Panthers, Rams, and Saints. After that, the Buccaneers head to London for another game with the Panthers. In other words, a loss on Sunday could put Tampa on the road t a disastrous season.

Carolina also suffered a loss in their season opener, although the Panthers don’t exactly have their finger on the panic button. The Panthers had the misfortune of hosting the reigning NFC champion Rams in Week 1. After a slow start, Carolina made a game of it in the second half, although ultimately came up short in a 30-27 loss.

While Carolina isn’t hitting the panic button, there is a little bit of urgency for the Panthers heading into Week 2. After all, no team wants to start the season 0-2, especially when they lost seven of their last eight games the previous season. On top of that, the Panthers don’t want to lose back-to-back home games to begin the season with two road games on the horizon and a back-loaded schedule.

In addition to both teams trying to avoid a 0-2 start, the Panthers and Buccaneers are fierce NFC South rivals. The Panthers have dominated the series for most of the current decade, winning nine of their last 12 head-to-head meetings with Tampa Bay. However, the Bucs managed to earn a split of the two games last year, although Tampa has just one win in Charlotte in the last six years.

Free NFL Pick Against the Spread: Panthers -6.5

The only thing more difficult than picking games before both teams have played is picking games after both teams have only played just one game. But this pick is rather simple. The Buccaneers showed a number of concerning flaws in Week 1 while the Panthers had a few positives they can build upon. The short week should favor the home team, so I’ll take my chances on Carolina winning by a touchdown to cover.

Admittedly, the thing I like most about the Panthers in this game is that they’ll be facing Jameis Winston. In a make or break year for Winston, he got off to a dreadful start in Week 1. He threw three interceptions against the 49ers, including two that were returned for a pick-six. Apparently, Arians hasn’t yet been able to work his magic and live up to his reputation as the “quarterback whisperer.” In the past, the Bucs could live with Winston’s turnovers because he was otherwise productive. But he had less than 200 yards passing against San Francisco, making the turnovers impossible to overcome.

The silver lining for the Tampa offense is that they ran the ball effectively, which is something they struggled to do last season. However, I don’t see that being enough against Carolina, who has a talented front-four and linebacker Luke Kuechly patrolling the middle of the field. Obviously, the Panthers didn’t have a strong showing defensively in the season opener. But giving up 30 points to the Rams isn’t the end of the world. I think they’ll have a bounce-back effort against a quarterback in Winston who must be void of confidence after Sunday’s performance.

On the other side, Cam Newton also had a rather uneven opener. The Panthers scored just three points in the first half before finding their stride. Also, Newton wasn’t a factor running the ball and turned it over twice. However, the Panthers have a not-so-secret weapon in Christian McCaffrey who carried the offense. McCaffrey played every snap and accounted for 209 total yards of offense. At some point, the Panthers will need more than McCaffrey, but he’s a force who will be tough for the Buccaneers to keep contained for four quarters.

To be fair, the Tampa defense played well in Week 1, especially when you consider the Tampa offense gave away two pick-sixes and the Bucs got one of their own. But it’ll take more than a good defensive effort to beat the Panthers. After Week 1, I can’t trust Winston not to literally throw the game away. I also think the Panthers will benefit from not playing a team that was in the Super Bowl last year, which is why I think Carolina will cover.

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