After struggling down the stretch, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have dug themselves a hole. Once in charge in the NFC South, they’re currently outside of the NFC Playoffs. In Week 17, they’ll also need a lot of help just to make it into the field. However, they first have to do their part and beat the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium.
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The Buccaneers at their best have been fantastic with Jameis Winston looking to come of age. Moreover, their defense has played above their heads at times this season. With that said, their inconsistency has been maddening and you never know what you’re truly going to get with them.
On the other hand, Cam Newton and the Panthers haven’t exactly been reliable this season. Instead, they’ve been one of the most disappointing teams in the league after a Super Bowl trip one year ago. Now, they’re reduced to merely trying to play spoiler in Week 17.
When he’s on, there isn’t a secondary in the NFL that can contain what Jameis Winston is capable of. The problems come when he’s off. That’s when he forces throws and, ultimately, turns the ball over to cripple his team. Against a young secondary for the Panthers that many teams have exploited this season, Winston has to take advantage. He needs to be precise and smart with his throws while also still being willing to make the big play if it’s there.
Carolina must be able to run the football if they’re to pull of the spoiler upset of the Bucs. Newton’s struggles this season have been widely noted and it’s hard to rely on him right now to be a playmaker without balance in the offense. It’s not shocking that the best games the Panthers have played this season have come when Jonathan Stewart has run the ball well. That’s what they need to do to top the Buccaneers.
Point Spread: Tampa Bay -3 Moneyline: Tampa Bay -160, Carolina +140 Over/Under: 44.5
My faith in the Buccaneers has certainly taken a hit given how they’ve finished the season. However, my faith in the Panthers left long ago. I think that the Buccaneers ride a big game from Winston and another solid defensive outing to get the win to do their part—though I think they still fall short of the postseason.
Pick: Carolina Panthers: 16, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 28