Jameis Winston and Bucs look to end a three-game losing streak in Carolina
The Carolina Panthers were ghosting as double-digit favorites for this divisional matchup vs. Tampa Bay but an injury to Cam Newton has knocked the line below seven, tempting bettors to trust QB Derek Anderson.
WEEK 5 MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
The Carolina Panthers opened as 4.5-point favorites and have slowly been attracting action throughout the week as news on the health of their front seven turned positive. As of gameday, it looks like DE Charles Johnson (7 tackles, 2 forced fumbles) and LB Thomas Davis (20 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) will both be in the starting lineup.
C Ryan Kalil (knee) has also been cleared but it’s not often you see a team with injuries to their starting quarterback, running back and left tackle laying so much chalk. Anderson is a consummate pro and he’s been with this organization since 2010, so he understands the playbook. Anderson even led Carolina to two wins over the Bucs in 2014, when Newton was out various rib and back injuries, but he wasn’t laying six points and margins of victory were only six and two points.
Tampa Bay has its own share of injuries, starting on the defensive front where DT Gerald McCoy (calf), DT Clinton McDonald (hamstring), DE Robert Ayers (ankle) and DE Noah Spence are all listed as questionable/doubtful. This is front seven that led the NFL last year in missed tackles (85) and if you take this many pieces out of the puzzle even Johnathan Stewart’s 12-year-old cousin could smash the ball through for 4.5-yard carries all night.
The benefits for Carolina are that TE Greg Olsen and WR Kelvin Benjamin are familiar with Anderson’s style. They’ve had an extra day to get ready and together with Fozzy Whittaker, Mike Tolbert and Cameron Artis-Payne, this offense should be able to move the chains.
Tampa Bay’s schizophrenic offense is the X-factor and sticking with the theme, they are also dealing with a number of key injuries. Doug Martin is out, Charles Sims is doubtful and that leaves Jacquizz Rodgers to carry behind an O-Line that’s 22nd in run blocking and 29th in rushing yards per carry (3.4).
It’s on Jameis Winston and the passing game to get this job done tonight and with enough points, they’re at least worth a look. Mike Evans leads the team with 360 yards and three TDs and they’ve also had nice production out of second-year WR Adam Humphries (205 yards) and TE Cameron Brate, whose two TDs are already one shy of his 2015 total (3).
These Monday night faves in the midrange, laying more than field goal but less than a touchdown have been fool’s gold the past couple years and if this line goes to +7, the Bucs could be worth a shot. I’m not overly confident on their ability to punch red zone chances in for scores, however, so my suggestion is to see if this line goes to 47 and take the low road.