Just when you think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ready to put the NFC South in their rear-view mirror, they remind you of the potential pitfalls.
Tom Brady looking like an over-40 year old quarterback. A ton of offensive weapons who may be difficult to feed the football. A head coach that can’t always measure his mouth on who he feels was to blame. And the New Orleans Saints starting to get healthy and back to their old ways.
Suddenly, the road to a home game at Raymond James Stadium in early February looks a lot more pothole filled for the Buccaneers, who have only two wins so far against teams projected to be playoff teams – the Raiders and the Packers.
This Sunday, it’s another potential pitfall as Tampa Bay travels to Charlotte (1 p.m., FOX) to take on a Carolina Panthers squad fresh off a fourth straight loss and likely playing without top offensive threat Christian McCaffrey, who suffered a shoulder injury last week in a 33-31 loss at Kansas City. The Panthers are a team that’s a pain in the neck to play but doesn’t have the horses to piece long winning streaks together.
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The sports betting information
The Bucs are six point road favorites on Sunday afternoon with a money line total of minus-250 (A $250 bet is needed to win $100). Carolina’s money line mark is +210 – a $100 bet could win $210. The over/under total is 50 ½.
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In the first meeting between the two in Tampa back in mid-September, Leonard Fournette rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns as the Buccaneers bounced back from a double-digit loss to the Saints for a 31-17 win over Carolina. Tampa has won three of the last four games in the series.
The main storylines to watch
The Buccaneers 38-3 home loss to the Saints last week was a clunker on just about every level. Tom Brady threw three interceptions. The Bucs defense surrendered 420 yards in total offense. In one night under the national spotlight, Tampa was forced to grovel for a Ryan Succop field goal with under six minutes to play to avoid the shutout. The good news for the Bucs is the fact that they have responded well after each of their previous two losses with quality wins over Carolina in Week 2 and the 38-10 win over Green Bay in Week 6 that was Brady and the Bucs best game of the year. If they do that again against Carolina, then the panic meter gets turned down a notch.
The Panthers were able to make the Chiefs sweat last week, continuing a trend of near misses that has highlighted all six of their losses. Only one of them- the loss to Tampa in Week 2- was a double digit defeat. Teddy Bridgewater did throw for 310 yards against the Chiefs, but losing McCaffrey undoubtedly will leave a mark. He will be replaced by Mike Davis, who is averaging 86.5 yards from scrimmage in McCaffrey’s place. Robby Anderson could also have a big day against the Tampa defense, which does allow 7.1 yards per pass attempt and has surrendered 15 touchdowns.
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