Buccaneers vs. Panthers NFL Week 16 Picks and Predictions

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Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. DeFelice/Getty Images/AFP

The top sportsbooks have released their NFL odds for Sunday’s game between Tampa Bay and Carolina. The Bucs are coming off a rare loss and an even rarer shutout loss.

They’ll look to reassert themselves against a reeling Panther team that hasn’t won a game since November 14. For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for this game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers

Sunday, December 26, 2021 – 01:00 PM EST at Bank of America Stadium

Carolina's Losing Streaks

Currently, Carolina is suffering 0-4 SU and ATS losing streaks. Two non-covers came against Washington and Atlanta teams with losing records. Those were not blowout losses.

However, they also suffered a 33-10 defeat to Miami and a 31-14 loss to Buffalo.

Cam Newton Is Terrible

What all four games have in common is that Cam Newton was Carolina's starter. I get that Newton already had a history in Carolina, but I am surprised that he was given a chance to start after his awful showing in New England and before in Carolina.

He is a poor passer, for which reason he's converting 54.9 percent of his passes. His lack of accuracy and his mistake-prone tendencies as a passer -- he's thrown four interceptions in four starts -- make him unreliable against any defense.

When Newton's Panthers faced Atlanta, for example, he mustered a 70.6 passer rating. His rating was poor despite the fact that Atlanta ranks 29th -- after facing Newton -- at limiting the opponent's average passer rating.

When he faced off with Miami's expensive and top-level secondary, he completed a ridiculous five of 21 passes and threw two interceptions. Most recently, against a likewise strong Buffalo secondary, he failed to complete half his passes.

Tampa Bay's Defense

Despite early-season issues, the Bucs rank 10th at limiting the opponent's passer rating. Viewed in terms of overall quality, they thus pose a significantly tougher challenge to Cam than the Falcons did, even if their secondary isn't as strong as Miami's.

But besides the improved quality of Tampa Bay's secondary, the Buc pass defense has a unique advantage. In their last two games, they faced Buffalo and then New Orleans, most recently limiting the Taysom Hill-led Saints to nine points despite the problems that their offense suffered.

What Buffalo, New Orleans, and Carolina have in common is running quarterbacks. All three teams employ quarterbacks who make running a prominent part of their style. Because Tampa Bay is facing a third such team in a row, it is uniquely well-prepared to deal with Cam. Keep this unique angle in mind for your best bets.

As for the Buc's run defense, it ranks third as measured by opposing rushing yards per game. It will have no problem limiting a Panther run attack that misses superstar Christian McCaffrey. His top backup, Chuba Hubbard, is not a playmaker. The fourth-round selection averages a paltry 3.6 YPC.

Time of Possession

Carolina's conspicuous offensive difficulties put its defense in a bad position. A defense can be as strong as it wants to be, but it will wear down and suffer depreciated quality if the offense cannot sustain drives and let it rest. The Panthers' offensive ineptitude has created this problem with the time of possession.

Against Washington, for example, Carolina could possess the ball for only 24:07. As a result, Washington's offense had more chances and could strike a significant rhythm. Largely because of the Panthers' offensive problems, opposing teams are regularly scoring above their average.

With our sports betting in mind, look at their last four games to see what I mean. Washington scored 20.2 points per game but scored 27 against Carolina. Miami averages 20.4 points per game but accomplished 33 against the Panthers. Atlanta scores 18.4 points per contest but produced 29 points against Carolina.

Last, Buffalo scored 31 points on the Panthers despite sinking recent offensive productivity and despite averaging 28.1 points per game. Tampa Bay leads the NFL with 29.3 points per game.

Injuries

Even if the Bucs score just a few more with their average, they'll have no problem beating Carolina by 20 or more points. While they do miss some important players on offense, the Panthers also miss important players on defense. Cornerback A.J. Bouye, for example, was just placed on Injured Reserve.

Plus, Tampa Bay gets back Antonio Brown this week. Also, running back Ronald Jones' productivity is well-proven. He averages 4.7 YPC this season.

Expert Pick

While Sam Darnold could come back to replace or share time with Newton, his 71.3 passer rating and 59.5-percent completion rate hardly justify the hope that he'd bring any improvement even if he shakes off his rust and is sufficiently healthy.

Whether Darnold or Newton starts, you should absolutely invest in Tampa Bay with your NFL Picks.

NFL Pick: Buccaneers -10.5 (-108) at Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review)

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Buccaneers -10.5 (-108)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.