NFL Predictions – Panthers at Tampa Bay Bucs (-6.5)

Like the Texans, the Carolina Panthers play five of their remainingeight games on the road, starting this week against division rivals theBucs. In the previous three years, the Panthers are 2-1 against the Bucswhen playing in Tampa Bay, but both of these teams are radicallydifferent this year.

On one hand, the 1-7 Panthers are relying on a second-round draftpick to play quarterback, now that Matt Moore is done for the season dueto injuries. Jimmy Clausen hasn’t done well in his short time in thequarterback position, throwing one touchdown and four interceptions.This will be Clausen’s second road game, the other being a loss to theSaints in New Orleans when he threw for 146 yards. As a team thePanthers rank as the worst passing team in the NFL and among the worstrushing teams. Of the few positives for the team, Carolina is among thebest in allowing the fewest passing yards to opponents.

All of that bodes well for the Bucs, who are looking to bounce backafter a near-win against the Falcons in Week 9. Tampa’s defense eats upweak quarterbacks, forcing three or more turnovers in games this seasonagainst the Browns, Bengals, Cardinals and these same Panthers. Despitethe relatively good stats for the Panthers defense against the pass,Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman had his second highest quarterback ratingof 102.4 come earlier this year against Carolina.

Bessire’s Take: “The Carolina offense is terrible. Tampa Bay may beable to score one touchdown and still cover in this game. I would guessthat when the season started, Carolina did not expect that they would betaking on a 5-3 Tampa Bay team, which already won by double-digits inCarolina, with Jimmy Clausen, Mike Goodson and David Gettis as criticaloffensive players. Each of those players has shown some flashes ofability, but none should be starting in the NFL right now. It’s thatsimple.” Take: “Tampa Bay opened as a 7.5-point favorite and thewise guys disagreed, pushing the spread past the key number of 7.Currently, the spread is 6.5 but it is likely to close at 6 seeing lopsided volume on the Carolina Panthers. Carolinais also a heavy teaser side this week.”

The Pick: Buccaneers -6.5. The Bucs won in Carolina earlier this yearby a 20-7 score. They should easily be able to replicate that resultthis week at home against a Carolina team that looks even worse than itdid during the Week 2 contest.