Panthers vs Buccaneers Odds: Pick This Week 17 Underdog Against Tom Brady

Panthers vs Buccaneers Odds: Pick This Week 17 Underdog Against Tom Brady article feature image

Eakin Howard/Getty Images. Pictured: Chuba Hubbard (left) and Sam Darnold.

  • The Panthers are road underdogs against the Buccaneers in Week 17.
  • Tampa Bay clinches the AFC South with a win, but Carolina could gain control of the division.
  • Phillip Kall previews the game and makes his Panthers vs Bucs pick below.

Panthers vs. Buccaneers Odds

Sunday, Dec. 4
1 p.m. ET
Panthers Odds
-110o / -110u
Buccaneers Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.

With two weeks left in the NFL season, the NFC South race is nearly down to two teams. This week, we look for a Panthers vs Buccaneers pick in a huge matchup.

Per Five Thirty Eight, the Panthers and the Buccaneers account for 98% of the south’s division win probability. For Tampa Bay, this is a win-and-in situation. The Panthers gain control of their destiny with a win, but they'll still need another win or some luck if they lose in Week 18.

Carolina enters this game as the hotter team. The Panthers have won three of their last four and looked dominant in those games. The one loss, though, was a glaring red mark. They played like the 1-5 team we saw early in the year.

The Buccaneers have continued their season trend of underwhelming. They are 2-3 in their last five games, beating only the Saints and Trace McSorely-led Cardinals. Of course, with Tom Brady, even stumbling into the playoffs might be enough to make some noise once they start.

Let’s look further to see if Carolina can continue its hot streak or if Tampa can make up for a season of struggles with a playoff berth.

Panthers vs. Buccaneers Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how the Panthers and Buccaneers match up statistically:

Panthers vs. Buccaneers DVOA Breakdown
Overall DVOA269
Pass DVOA3010
Rush DVOA1013
Overall DVOA1723
Pass DVOA1226
Rush DVOA3018

The formula for Carolina's success has been simple in recent weeks: run the football. In their wins this season, the Panthers have averaged 213 rushing yards. Against the Lions last week, they had 200 yards rushing – in the first half. The combination of Chuba Hubbard and D’onta Foreman has done an excellent job since Christian McCaffery was traded. On the year, Carolina ranks sixth in yards after contact per carry per Pro Football Reference.

During the winning streak, the passing game has had one job: Don’t screw it up. Despite his history of doing just that, Sam Darnold has turned a corner this year and has limited his mistakes. Darnold has started four games and has four touchdowns to zero interceptions. He is averaging a mere 22 passes per game, but his 8.6 yards per attempt would be second among qualified quarterbacks.

This is not an endorsement to lean on Darnold, but he has proven to be a capable game manager. As long as Carolina can create on the ground, Darnold can make the throws needed to make a defense pay for over-committing. 

Bet Carolina vs. Tampa Bay at FanDuel

Defensively, Carolina has thrived when forcing its opponents to be one-dimensional. The Steelers were able to run through the Panthers, and because of it, they found offensive success. The much better offenses – Seahawks and Lions – struggled to be productive until Carolina had pulled too far ahead.

In its last matchup, Carolina stifled the Bucs' ground game, and Tampa ended with only three points. Forcing the ball into Brady’s typically is suboptimal. However, when the Bucs have been forced into being a pass-only team, it has not ended well.

If there were ever such a thing as a “bend but don’t break” offense, that would be the Buccaneers this season. They have shown a respectable ability to move the ball as they rank 15th in yards per game. However, finishing drives has been their Achilles’ heel as they rank 27th in points per game. 

A major problem for the Buccaneers' scoring has been the disappearance of the run game in the red zone. Tampa Bay already boasts the league’s worst rushing attack, averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Even that level of efficiency disappears as they plummet to 1.4 yards per carry when it matters most. That red-zone yards per carry figure is comfortably the league’s worst.

Through the air, the raw numbers make this passing attack look more respectable than it's been. They are fourth in pass yards per game but 20th in net yards per attempt. Essentially, the volume of the passing game is making it appear better than it is. 

The connection between Brady and his receivers just has not been the same as in previous years. Mike Evans has consistently produced as a top-30 receiver in yards per target over the past five years. This year he is down to 52nd with a mark of 8.0, his lowest since 2017. That is even the receiver producing the most for Tampa. Whether it is scheme or age catching up with the Bucs, something has systematically dismantled this offense.

Fortunately, the Buccaneers have been carried to a good enough record thanks to their defense. Tampa’s defense is top eight in both yards and points allowed per drive. Carrying this defense to success has been the pass defense, where the Bucs rank third in net yards per attempt. This defense has shown signs of weakness against the run and rank 21st in yards per rush allowed.

Betting Picks

This game seems built for Brady at home: a divisional matchup, division control on the line, and tons of pressure. We have seen time and time again, Brady not just keeps his cool but elevates his play in these situations. 

However, when you look at these teams and what makes them successful, the signs point to Carolina. The Panthers need to force their opponent to be one-dimensional. Tampa Bay naturally can’t run. The Panthers need to create offense on the ground since Tampa Bay’s run defense is its weakness. The way the Xs and Os shake out look to be in Carolina’s favor.

Since Tampa is the favorite, a good way to break the tie on who to pick is to check their scoring margins recently. In three of Tampa’s last four victories, the game has been decided by a field goal or less. With a spread of over a field goal in most books, it is pretty clear which side to turn to.

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