Panthers vs. Bucs Odds, Picks, Predictions: Trends Point To Value On Tom Brady To Cover NFL Week 18 Spread

Panthers vs. Bucs Odds, Picks, Predictions: Trends Point To Value On Tom Brady To Cover NFL Week 18 Spread article feature image

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Tom Brady.

  • NFL odds have shifted for Bucs vs. Panthers in Week 18, with Tampa Bay now a 10.5-point favorite.
  • Our analyst breaks down why he bet on Tom Brady to cover spread -- but only at the right price.
  • With the spread out of his bet range, find out why he loves the Bucs in his teaser below.

Panthers vs. Bucs Odds

Panthers Odds+10.5
Bucs Odds-10.5
Time4:25 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.

The Buccaneers are currently the third seed in the NFC, but a win on Sunday against the Panthers, coupled with a Rams loss, would move Tampa Bay into the 2-seed. Tampa Bay's head coach Bruce Arians sees value in improving the team's seeding, and that's why he doesn't plan on resting his players in the regular-season finale.

"There is no balance, brother. You play to win," Arians told reporters on Monday. "You're playing to get that second seed. That's huge. We're not resting anybody. We're playing to win."

However, despite the comments by Arians, the betting market appears to have some reservations about the integrity of his remarks. The lookahead line listed the Buccaneers as high as a 16.5-point favorite, but it's down to -8 at some sportsbooks.

I have got some thoughts about whether we can take Arians at his word, and I'll also examine where the betting value lies in this matchup.

Click the arrow to expand injury reports

Panthers vs. Bucs Injury Report

Panthers Injuries

  • S Sean Chandler (groin): Doubtful
  • WR Robby Anderson (quad): Questionable
  • DT Derrick Brown (elbow): Questionable

Bucs Injuries

  • WLB Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder): Out
  • SLB Shaquil Barrett (knee): Out
  • RB Leonard Fournette (hamstring): Out
  • RB Ronald Jones II (ankle): Out
  • WR Justin Watson (quad): Out
  • CB Rashard Robinson (groin): Out
  • CB Richard Sherman (groin): Doubtful
  • C Ryan Jensen (shoulder): Questionable

Panthers vs. Bucs Matchup

Panthers OffenseDVOA RankBucs Defense
Panthers DefenseDVOA RankBucs Offense
Football Outsiders' DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team's success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.

What Can We Expect From Panthers?

It's been two weeks since the Panthers' playoff hopes went up in flames. On Sunday, they'll get a second crack at the Buccaneers, who eliminated them from playoff contention in Week 16. The obvious question we have to ask about the Panthers is whether they'll even have any motivation to play this game.

Carolina has been awful of late, coming into this matchup on a six-game losing streak. Five of the six losses have been by at least a touchdown, and half of them were by double digits.

The quarterback position has been in disarray, as it's gone from Sam Darnold to P.J. Walker to Cam Newton, and now back to Darnold once again. However, it hasn't mattered much who's been under center — the results have been poor across the board. A glance at Carolina's offensive DVOA rankings should tell you all you need to know about this team.

There are also reports of frustration inside this Panthers organization when you consider Darnold's regression at quarterback, the loss of their star running back Christian McCaffrey to a second straight season-ending injury, and the firing of offensive coordinator Joe Brady during the team's bye week.

Frankly, I think the Panthers have themselves to blame for some questionable decision-making, like picking up Darnold's fifth-year option and re-signing Newton.

The reality is there aren't many success stories to pick out on this team, whether it's the front office, coaching or players on the field. As a result, you could easily make the argument that the Panthers' problems are just as much attributable to what's happening off the field as what's happening on it. When you have a team that appears to be this fragile, assessing their psyche is just as valuable as any handicap based on their X's and O's.

Bucs Will Use Week 18 To Prep For Playoffs

If you turned on the television this week and heard some of the conversations surrounding the Buccaneers, you might think they're on a four- or five-game losing streak heading into the playoffs. Instead, Tampa Bay has won six of its past seven games and is tied for the second-best record in the NFL. While the Bucs are dealing with some injuries, it's often expected that teams will go through some attrition during a long football season.

However, the quarterback is the one position that most teams can ill afford an injury to. And last I checked, Tom Brady is still pulling the strings for the Tampa Bay offense.

At the ripe age of 44, Brady is still putting up MVP-caliber numbers with 4,990 passing yards and 40 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. With some injuries at offensive skill positions, though, I don't think there are too many guys other than Brady you can trust in to figure things out.

The Buccaneers are down two wide receivers following Chris Godwin's ACL injury and the release of Antonio Brown. We've recently seen Brady develop a rapport with Cyril Grayson and Tyler Johnson, two possible replacements at wide receiver. Grayson has already caught nine catches for 162 yards — including a touchdown — in Tampa Bay's past two games.

That's why I feel Sunday's game will have some significance for the Buccaneers. There's still plenty of work they can do to bring along these players, who will now be thrust into the spotlight in the playoffs.

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Week 18 is an opportunity for the Bucs to come together following the fallout with Brown. The last thing skeptics should be doing is doubting Brady. You can almost hear him saying down the road, "That's when it became personal." Questioning him will only give him even more motivation to prove his critics wrong.

Brady could very well be in line for another big passing game since the Buccaneers will be without their top two running backs in Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II. As a result, it wouldn't surprise me if Tampa Bay utilized more passing plays in its offense. It's worth noting that Brady threw for 410 yards in the Bucs' Week 17 victory over the Jets.

Panthers vs. Bucs Predictions

I suspect that Tampa Bay will want to put the Antonio Brown saga behind it as quickly as possible. That will likely have been part of Bruce Arians' message to the team leading up to this game. The Bucs will need to look at Brown's departure as more of an opportunity for their less-experienced players to step up. Arians might even frame it all as addition by subtraction.

After a week of answering questions about a player who's no longer on the team, the Buccaneers need to regain control of the narrative entering the playoffs. Regardless of what happens on Sunday, the Buccaneers will be playing on Wild Card Weekend since only the Packers will receive a bye. Thus, I believe it would behoove them to approach this matchup as a possible postseason game.

If anything, the earlier Tampa Bay can switch on their playoff mode, the better things will be for them. A good performance against the Panthers will quiet much of the discussion surrounding Brown's departure.

That's why I feel the Buccaneers will come out with a point to prove, and there are plenty of trends that support the Buccaneers as a side, per our Action Labs data:

  • The favorite is on a 4-0 against the spread (ATS)  run in the past four meetings.
  • Carolina is 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings.
  • Tampa Bay is 6-1 ATS at home this season.
  • Carolina is 0-6 ATS in their past six games.

Lastly, since 2017, teams that failed to cover the spread in six straight games heading into the final week of the season are 0-3 ATS in this spot.

I believe it makes sense to lay the eight points with the home favorites based on my research. Some sportsbooks are still offering the Buccaneers at -8, so you shouldn't have much trouble finding them at that number. I'd also recommend playing the Buccaneers as part of a two-team six-point teaser if you're feeling frisky.

I plan to allocate a half-unit of my bankroll for each play.

Pick: Buccaneers -8 | Bet to: -8.5

Bonus Pick: Two-Team Six-Point Teaser (-110) — Buccaneers -2 & Patriots -1

More Panthers-Bucs Odds, Picks, Trends

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