Patience is not a virtue shared by many NFL teams, especially when that team has just one win on the season.
The Carolina Panthers pulled the plug on head coach Frank Reich, 11 games into his tenure in Charlotte. Not only did the Panthers fire Reich but also cleaned out much of his offensive coaching staff.
That leaves Carolina in the hands of interim head coach Chris Tabor and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, who was handed play calling duties by Reich a few weeks back only to have that role revoked before the head coach was canned Monday.
That chaos in Carolina sets up Tampa Bay for a much-needed win after dropping back-to-back games on the road. The Buccaneers are back in Raymond James Stadium and laying a sizeable spread considering their quality of play and a banged-up Baker Mayfield at quarterback.
I try to make sense of the NFL odds for this NFC South showdown and give my best NFL picks and predictions for Panthers at Bucs on December 3.
Panthers vs Buccaneers odds
Panthers vs Buccaneers predictions
Frank Reich’s sudden departure speaks more about the Carolina Panthers’ offensive issues and the controversy surrounding the all-in selection of QB Bryce Young with the No. 1 overall pick.
However, a series of injuries to the Carolina defense didn’t help things.
The Panthers defensive corps has been ravaged by ailments all season but is finally getting healthy for the home stretch. The stop unit could welcome back several starters in the secondary (C.J. Henderson, Jeremy Chinn, Jaycee Horn) in Week 13.
Carolina’s defense was the backbone of this team heading into the season, but with players coming in and out of the lineup, this group has sunk to the bottom of many defensive measurements (29th in DVOA and EPA allowed per play).
The stop unit kept the Panthers competitive against Tennessee last week, holding the Titans to 17 points on 264 total yards with just 15 first downs. And if we look over the past three games, Carolina has actually pushed back, improving its points allowed per play from dead last (0.476) in the first nine weeks to 0.346 the last three weeks (19th).
This isn’t a 180 by any means, but these defensive improvements along with the return of some key cogs should help. There’s also the fact that first-year defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero is either coaching for his job or trying to throw his hat in the ring for the vacant head coach position this offseason.
Evero is planning for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense that’s been nearly as bad as the Panthers – at least over the past month. Tampa Bay has scored more than 20 points only once in the last seven showings, ranking 18th in EPA per play and 25th in success rate since Week 6.
The Buccaneers’ struggles are boiling over to the postgame press conferences, with QB Baker Mayfield roasting his team after an ugly 27-20 loss at Indianapolis.
“Until everybody gets pissed off enough to get it fixed, there will be no changes,” a frustrated Mayfield told the media. “I know where I’m gonna head at the end of this week. I’ll get my job fixed and try to drag as many people along as well.”
Mayfield may have to “drag” those people on one good ankle, with the QB listed as questionable for Week 13.
Mayfield played through pain in Sunday’s loss to the Colts and while his tests came back negative, the buzz out of Tampa is that Mayfield is very sore after suffering six sacks and fumbling twice in Week 12.
Should Mayfield make the start this Sunday, Carolina will have plenty of insight into Tampa Bay’s QB. He spent most of last season with the Panthers before getting benched in Week 10 and subsequently released.
With the Panthers rallying around the remaining coaches, Carolina’s defense potentially getting stronger, and the Bucs marching out a one-legged QB, I’m looking at Tampa Bay to finish below its team total of 21.5 points.
My best bet: Tampa Bay Team Total Under 21.5 (-131 at Pinnacle)
Picks made at time of writing may not reflect live odds.
Panthers vs Buccaneers same-game parlay
Buccaneers team total Under 21.5
Miles Sanders Over 27.5 rushing yards
Baker Mayfield Over 0.5 interceptions
The Bucs have broken the 20-point plateau just once in their last seven games and the Panthers defense is getting stronger with key bodies coming back.
Miles Sanders should see an uptick in touches with OC Thomas Brown calling plays and his projections are calling for a ceiling of 53 rushing yards.
Meanwhile, Mayfield comes into Week 13 with a bum wheel and faces a Carolina secondary that is expected to return starters from injury. Baker has thrown a pick in three straight and has at least one INT in seven of his last nine starts.
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Panthers vs Buccaneers spread and Over/Under analysis
The look-ahead line for this divisional matchup was Tampa Bay -5.5 before the Bucs’ bad showing in Indianapolis and the Panthers dropping another game in Tennessee. The official Week 13 spread hit the board at Tampa Bay -6 and has dipped to -5.5 shortly after opening.
Carolina’s coaching turnover has had little to no impact on the odds, which isn’t surprising considering just how poorly the Panthers have played. They’re already being rated as the lowest of the low, so you can only go so far in discounting their spread.
The big note to keep an eye on is the status of Tampa Bay QB Baker Mayfield, who suffered an ankle injury in the loss to the Titans. While he played through the pain and imaging came back negative, Mayfield is questionable for Week 13.
The Over/Under total reflects the status of these two NFC South foes. This number opened at 39 points and has spiraled to a low of 37 points, as of Tuesday.
The Panthers continue to throw rookie QB Byrce Young to the wolves and are ranked Bottom 3 in many advanced offensive metrics. They’ve failed to score more than 15 points in five straight outings, with a combined 61 points in that span.
Carolina has gone Under the total in each of those games with totals dipping to lows of 36.5 points in last week’s loss. On the year, the team is 3-8 O/U overall but 3-3 O/U on the road.
As for Tampa Bay, it’s cracked 20-plus points only once in the last seven outings, producing a 2-5 O/U record in that stretch. The Buccaneers are also 3-8 O/U on the season, with a 1-4 O/U tally at home.
Panthers vs Buccaneers betting trend to know
These NFC South rivals are a collective 6-16 Over/Under on the season, going 1-4 O/U against sub-40 totals. Find more NFL betting trends for Panthers vs. Buccaneers.
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Panthers vs Buccaneers game info
|Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
|Sunday, December 3, 2023
|4:05 p.m. ET
|Buccaneers -5.5, 39.5 O/U
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