Buccaneers vs. Jaguars Picks, Predictions & Betting Odds: Can Nick Foles Exploit a Weak Tampa Bay Pass Defense?

Buccaneers vs. Jaguars Picks, Predictions & Betting Odds: Can Nick Foles Exploit a Weak Tampa Bay Pass Defense? article feature image

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jameis Winston.

  • The Jacksonville Jaguars host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as small home underdogs.
  • Our experts preview this Week 13 matchup, featuring betting odds and picks below.

Buccaneers at Jaguars Picks, Predictions & Betting Odds

  • Odds: Buccaneers -1.5
  • Over/Under: 47.5
  • Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: FOX

Odds as of Friday afternoon.

The Jaguars have struggled since the return of starting quarterback Nick Foles, but they welcome a weak pass defense in Tampa Bay to Jacksonville on Sunday.

The Buccaneers offense has surged lately thanks to big seasons from wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, but is there any value on this over? Our experts preview this matchup and make their picks.

Buccaneers-Jaguars Injury Report

Which team is healthier? Jaguars

The Jags aren’t in bad shape heading into this game, but the most notable injury is to offensive lineman Brandon Linder (shoulder). Linder grades out as one of the best pass blockers on the team. He hasn’t been credited with an allowed a sack to any Jaguars quarterback, per Pro Football Focus.

Defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) hasn’t practiced this week, and Tampa could potentially be down their best run defender in edge defender Anthony Nelson (hamstring). His potential absence would be good news for Leonard Fournette. Justin Bailey

Note: Info as of Friday. See our Injury Report for daily practice participation and game statuses up until kickoff.

Biggest Mismatch

Jaguars Pass Offense vs. Buccaneers Pass Defense

I haven’t been too impressed with the Jags since Foles returned in Week 11. They’ve scored just 16.5 points per game, and Foles has passed for only 284 yards and one touchdown per start.

But Foles has a great matchup against the Bucs, who have allowed a league-high 494.2 air yards and yards after the catch combined per game (per AirYards.com). Whether they are targeted downfield or underneath, the Bucs allow the ball to move a lot via the passing attack.

In fact, the Bucs have the league’s most extreme funnel defense, ranking No. 1 against the run but No. 25 against the pass (per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric). Although the Jags tend to lean on their running game, against the Bucs, they will be motivated to throw.

And when they pass, there’s every reason to expect succeed when targeting the cornerbacks. The Bucs cut No. 1 corner Vernon Hargreaves III in Week 11, and slot corner M.J. Stewart (knee) hasn’t played since Week 10 and is yet to return to practice. He seems unlikely to suit up this weekend.

As a result, second-year cornerback Carlton Davis is now the unit’s No. 1 player, and rookies Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean are respectively playing in the slot and perimeter. Collectively, these three corners comprise the league’s most inexperienced pass defense trio.

All of them are vulnerable. Just last week, Carlton allowed 117 yards and a touchdown on 16 targets. In his two games as the team’s primary slot corner, Murphy-Bunting has allowed an 85.7% completion rate. And Dean in his three games of sustained action has yielded 187 yards and three touchdowns.

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: DJ Chark.

While the Jags aren’t a pass-heavy team, they have the wide receivers to exploit this matchup. Second-year emerging star D.J. Chark is a top-five producer at the position with his combination of 834 yards and eight touchdowns. As noted in my Week 13 WR/CB piece, I expect Chark to line up most against Davis. In his final year at LSU, Chark faced off against Davis and burned the Auburn secondary for 150 yards on five receptions.

Opposite of Chark, wide receiver Chris Conley is likely to run most of his routes against Dean. Over the past six weeks, Conley has 65 yards on 7.8 targets per game. In his two games with a touchdown this year, he’s averaged 100 yards receiving. A big-play specialist, Conley is going against a mistake-prone rookie backup.

And in the slot, the savvy Dede Westbrook should be able to run circles around Murphy-Bunting. A perimeter corner in college, Murphy-Bunting has been exposed as an NFL slot defender. Although he’s explosive, it’s likely that Murphy-Bunting lacks the twitchy agility and more importantly the technique needed to cover a receiver in the middle of the field. Westbrook has deferred to Chark this year, but last year Westbrook led the Jags in receiving, and he still has 100-yard potential in any given game.

Against these corners, Foles and the Jags could pile up 300 yards and three touchdowns passing. Matthew Freedman

Sean Koerner‘s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Jaguars -2
  • Projected Total: 49.5

Expert Pick

John Ewing: Under 47.5

This total opened 49. More than 60% of tickets are on the over. Tampa is third in the NFL in scoring (28.4 points per game) and the over has gone 9-2 in their games this season.

We know why the public is cheering for points but sharp bettors like the under. A higher percentage of dollars than tickets are on the under, forcing oddsmakers to adjust the total down to 47.5.

One reason the pros are expecting a low-scoring game is the weather. The forecast is calling for 17 mph winds during the game. Wind can impact the passing and kicking games, which creates a low scoring environment.

Historically, it has been profitable to bet the under in windy games. A $100 bettor following this strategy has returned a profit of $8,058 since 2003.

Windy conditions, sharp action, all signs point to value on the under in Sunday’s matchup.

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