Originally posted on The Pass Rush  |  Last updated 9/2/12


After Texans (-10) over Dolphins and Giants (-3) over Cowboys, the next game that sticks out to me on the week 1 card is Panthers (-2.5) over Buccaneers, thanks to the Panthers two routs over the Bucs last year. Before you jump on this pick right away, let’s try to break this game down.

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CAROLINA PANTHERS (-2.5) @ TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

This looks like a great spread to take since it’s essentially a pick ‘em game and the Panthers beat the Bucs by an average of 25.5 points in their matchups last season. Last year the Panthers absolutely dominated the Bucs, which is why I am so tempted to take this game right out of the gate without thinking twice.

In week 16 last year, the Panthers demolished the Bucs when the game was played in Carolina 48-16. The Panthers running game trampled over the Bucs with the trio of Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, and DeAngelo Williams all gaining over 60 yards on the ground and averaging about 10 yards-per-carry. The Panthers put up 270 rushing yards and 163 passing yards.

The teams also faced each other in week 13 in Tampa Bay. The Panthers again rolling in that game 38-19. That game featured a more balanced Panthers attack that gained 222 yards in the air and 163 yards on the ground. Cam Newton also had three rushing touchdowns in that game. It’s clearly no surprise that the Bucs ranked last in the NFL against the run and the Panthers ranked 3rd in rushing offense in the NFL.

I’m not expecting another rout like last season. I expect the outcome to be slightly closer. The Bucs should be an improved team thanks to their free agent acquisitions (OG Carl Nicks, WR Vincent Jackson, CB Eric Wright, and DT Amobi Okoye) and draft picks (S Mark Barron, RB Doug Martin). I still feel that the Bucs will struggle to reach even 6-10 though. You also have to keep in mind that the defensive collapse of the Bucs last season when they Bucs lost their final 9 games of the season can also be partially blamed on injuries. The Bucs 3rd overall pick, DT Gerald McCoy, was on the IR after tearing his bicep in week 6.

I expect the Panthers to be a team that finishes with 9 wins this season and is in the hunt for a wild card spot towards the end of the season. With Jon Beason returning to the Panthers defense (he was injured in the season opener last year) and paired up with 7th overall pick Luke Kuechly (arguably the best 4-3 LB to be drafted since Brian Urlacher), the Panthers defensive should take a step forward. The Panthers had plenty of offense last season, but it was their defense that let them down. The Panthers ranked 27th in yards allowed and 28th in points allowed. Many of the Panthers losses were the 30-27 variety unfortunately. With Beason and Kuelchy roaming the field, expect an improvement in the Panthers defense this season. I’m not expecting a drastic improvement, but going from an average of 26.8 points-per-game to 23.8 points-per-game seems rather attainable.

There’s no doubt this Panthers team still has a lot of defensive question marks, which is why this game isn’t an absolute “slam dunk” as many people would think. If Josh Freeman can rebound after his second year and look more like the player he was as a rookie thanks to the additions of Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin, then the Bucs can keep this game tight.

The over/under is at 46.5. I’m expecting a high-scoring affair and one that the Panthers come out on top of.I like the over in this game since you have two of the worst defenses from last year taking the field. I see both defenses giving up a ton of points in this one. A teaser of Panthers +4.5 and over 39.5 is an easy way to go.

Prediction: Panthers 30 – Buccaneers 24

Pick Against the Spread: Panthers -2.5 (Confidence: 7/10)

Over/Under Pick: Over 46.5 (Confidence 6/10)

Teaser Pick: Panthers +4.5/Over 39.5 (Confidence: 8/10)

Remember to sign up for the pick ‘em league! Good luck.

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