Cam Newton, Panthers Host Struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If the young Carolina Panthers could finish games more consistently, they would be a factor in the NFC playoff race. Instead, the Panthers (5-9) find themselves on the outside looking in with an opportunity to simply extend the losing streak of another NFC South team on Saturday when they host the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10).
Game time is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. (ET) with television coverage provided by FOX. Carolina opened as a 7-point favorite according to the Don Best odds screen and has seen some early betting action move the line to -7½ at some sports books with the total moving down from 49 to 48.
The Panthers have led in 13 of their 14 games this season, but have not played particularly well in the second half, especially the fourth quarter. In their last two losses, they led the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions by double digits at halftime only to get outscored 59-8 after the intermission.
Carolina just snapped a seven-game winning streak for the playoff-bound Houston Texans with a big 28-13 road win last Sunday though and appears to have an easier task in Week 16. Tampa Bay has dropped eight straight games, going 1-7 against the spread during that stretch.
The Bucs turned in a dismal performance at home last Saturday in a 31-15 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, trailing 28-0 at halftime before scoring all of their points in the third quarter. They only advanced into Dallas territory once in the fourth quarter and saw the total slip ‘under’ for just the second time in their past six games.
Tampa Bay was crushed at home by the Panthers 38-19 in Week 13 and will try to avoid a series sweep, which has occurred between the teams in the previous two years. Carolina outscored the Buccaneers 14-7 in the second half after building a 24-12 halftime lead and took advantage of backup quarterback Josh Johnson filling in for starter Josh Freeman due to a shoulder injury.
Freeman’s regression has been one of the main reasons Tampa has been such a disappointment this year. He has thrown 13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 13 games after totaling 25 and six, respectively, in a full season a year ago.
The favorite is 7-1 ATS in the last eight meetings between the teams, but the Panthers are just 2-6 ATS in their past eight against divisional opponents. Carolina has won three of four overall both straight-up and ATS following a 2-8 start. The Bucs are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 games, including 1-5 in their true home games.
The high temperature on Saturday in Tampa Bay is expected to reach 80 under partly cloudy skies.