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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

NFL Preview 2013 Week 8: Panthers vs Buccaneers

Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Market Watch

Last week in the LVH look-ahead line, the Panthers were -4.5 point favorites. That jumped all the way up to -6.5 after Week 7 when the lines reopened on Sunday night.

I think the true line on this game was correct a week ago, but 74 percent of the bets are on the Panthers and most sportsbooks have moved it to a full touchdown.

What to look for 

The Carolina Panthers are a fascinating team. Before the season started Football Outsiders picked them as the top sleeper team to make the most improvement. I had my doubts because I'm not a fan of Ron Rivera. The jury is still out on Cam Newton as well. No other team in the league finds more ways to lose close games.

But here we are in Week 8 and the Panthers have made some strides. Even though they've faced some tough defenses, their offensive rankings are pretty good. Their third down and red zone conversion percentages are impressive. Conversely, the Bucs rank high in these areas too, so it will be interesting to see what happens in those "make-or-break" moments.

As for the Tampa Bay offense, people are still unsure about Mike Glennon. He had 23 dropbacks inside the Atlanta 40 yard line last week, but only came away with a touchdown once. This passing attack is just not good enough. They don't rank well at sustaining drives, and when they get inside the red zone they usually settle for field goals. Glennon targeted Vincent Jackson on 50 percent of his throws last week. The Panthers defense has performed well all year - especially their defensive front. With Doug Martin out, they can double up on Jackson and dare Glennon to beat them.

Bottom Line

Greg Schiano is 0-6 this season and 1-11 in his last dozen games. This is also a team that isn't very good on special teams and takes far too many offensive penalties. No matter how you cut it, these are signs of poor coaching.

There is no question that the Panthers are the better team and should be favored by more than a field goal, but they are also playing on a short week on the road.  They are the only side I'd consider here, but perhaps they are better suited for a teaser. The line is a bit too inflated for my liking and if it is close at the end, I have no trust in Ron Rivera.
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