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Tampa Bay has had a tumultuous week. Will they rebound in a big way in their final regular season game before the playoffs?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers Prediction: Taking Advantage of a First Half Line

Key Stat: Despite some recent struggles, the Buccaneers still rank fifth in offensive success rate over the past six weeks

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers Prediction

As with most Week 18 games, the question of motivation is a central one here. Tampa Bay currently sits in the No. 3 spot in the NFC playoff picture, but they could move up to No. 2 with a win and a Rams loss. The Rams take on a 49ers team fighting for their playoff spot, so they certainly don’t have a walkover. The Buccaneers have some key players banged up, and have already ruled out Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Ronald Jones. They were already down Chris Godwin when Antonio Brown went AWOL Sunday and has since hijacked the news cycle this week. 

Things don’t look great for Tampa Bay right now. They needed a 33-yard touchdown with 15 seconds left to beat the lowly Jets last week, and their Super Bowl odds have tumbled as the market reacts to the turmoil of their past few weeks. I read that as added incentive to make a statement here, in what will likely be seen as a tune-up game. Tampa also surely values any potential to move up to the No. 2 line, which would lock them into a home game in the Divisional Round should they win their first playoff contest. If the top seeds hold in Round 1, Tampa traveling to Los Angeles for a road game on the west coast or hosting the Rams in Florida would be a major element of that potential second-round showdown. 

It’s hard to overstate how bad Carolina has been of late. They’ve lost their last six games, and none were closer than six points. Over the past three weeks, they’ve totaled 30 points, or 10 per game. If you stretch back further, you can say that after a 3-0 start, they’ve gone 2-11 over their past 13 games, with a point differential of -115, or -8.8 per game, even with a random 24-point win over the Colt McCoy-led Cardinals in Week 10 mixed in. 

This is a team that has not played particularly competitive football, which was the case when the Buccaneers went into Carolina two weeks ago, in Week 16, and ran away with the game, 32-6. Back at home and with something to prove before the playoffs, I’m expecting a sharp performance from Tampa against an inferior opponent. The eight-point line is a little rough, especially if Tampa is scoreboard watching and find themselves in a situation where the Rams look likely to win. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a team with health issues protect some key pieces and more or less give up the backdoor cover. 

I’m taking Tampa -4.5 on the first-half line. I expect Tom Brady to come out and look sharp early, and for the Bucs’ defense to also play well in making life difficult for Sam Darnold. How things play out after the halftime break is subject to a lot of potential factors, so I like the idea of trying to lock up a green check by midgame.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Carolina Panthers Pick

  • Tampa Bay 1H -4.5 (-110)

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Article Author


Ben knows his football. A fantasy football expert who was most recently seen at CBS Sports, he'll be helping bettors find value ahead in the NFL with OddsChecker.


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