Carolina Panthers (5-11, 5-11 ATS) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4, 8-8), 4:25 p.m.
Brolley’s Panthers Stats and Trends
The Panthers have dropped six straight games ATS.
Carolina is 5-2 toward overs in its last seven games.
Sam Darnold is back to being the starter but he still hasn’t thrown for a touchdown pass in his last five appearances, including in his first two games back from his injury. He also hasn’t averaged more than 6.0 YPA in each of his last seven games, and he’s averaging 5.1 YPA overall. He completed 15/32 passes (46.9%) for 190 yards (5.9 YPA) against the Buccaneers two weeks ago.
D.J. Moore finally got swallowed under the stench of this offense with just 3/29 receiving on eight targets. Robby Anderson was even worse against the Saints, catching his two targets for just 10 yards. Moore posted 5/55 receiving on 12 targets in this matchup two weeks ago while Robby turned in 5/58 receiving on 10 targets.
Chuba Hubbard saw a four-week best 20 touches last week since taking back over as the top runner in this backfield. He turned his touches into 68 yards and a touchdown on a 52% snap share in a tough matchup against the Saints. Ameer Abdullah turned in 6/21 rushing and 4/31 receiving on a 48% snap share last week. Hubbard had a miserable 6/9 rushing against the Buccaneers two weeks ago and Abdullah wasn’t much better with 5/9 scrimmage.
Brolley’s Buccaneers Stats and Trends
Tampa Bay is trending toward the #3 seed in the NFC but they could jump up to the #2 seed with a win and a Rams loss to the 49ers this week. The Buccaneers figure to be doing some scoreboard watching this week with the Rams playing at the same time, and their starters aren’t guaranteed to play the entire game.
The Buccaneers were an ascending team heading into the playoffs last season, but they’re trending in the wrong direction in 2021 despite riding 6-1 outright and a 5-2 ATS stretch heading into the season finale.
The Buccaneers beat the Panthers 32-6 as 11.5-point road favorites in a game totaled at 43.5 points back in Week 16.
The Buccaneers are 5-1 ATS in their last six home games.
Tom Brady already lost Chris Godwin (ACL) for the season and he’ll now be without Antonio Brown moving forward after he ended his playing career with his bare-chested exit at MetLife Stadium. Brady needs just 10 passing yards to reach 5000 yards for the second time in his career, so there’s a chance he sees some action this week but the question is how long this battered unit will stay in the game. Brady posted 232/1 passing for 14.4 FPG against the Panthers two weeks ago.
Mike Evans is the last man standing in this WR corps. He needs 54 receiving yards to extend his NFL record for most seasons with 1000+ yards to open a career to eight straight seasons. Evans sat out against the Panthers in Week 16 with a hamstring injury, and they’ll be cautious with him this week if they have to be since they’ve been crushed at WR in recent weeks.
Cyril Grayson stepped into a bigger role and he delivered the game-winning, 33-yard touchdown on Tampa’s final drive last week. He finished 6/81/1 receiving on eight targets (16% share) against the Jets, which gives him a pair of 81-yard games in the last two weeks. He had 3/81 receiving in Week 16 against this week’s opponent in Carolina.
Rob Gronkowski needs seven catches (to reach 55), 85 receiving yards (to reach 750 yards), and/or three TDs (to reach nine TDs) to unlock 500K bonuses in each category. Gronk certainly has plenty of incentives to play for this week, but they also want him close to full health heading into the postseason. He finished with just a 23-yard catch on two targets in this matchup two weeks ago.
The Buccaneers’ backfield is a mess this week with Ronald Jones (ankle), Ke’Shawn Vaughn (rib), and Giovani Bernard (knee, IR) all up in the air for this week. Le’Veon Bell actually led the backfield with a 35% snap share last week, but he turned in just 3/5 rushing and 3/30 receiving. Vaughn finished with 8/31 rushing and 2/14 receiving on a 32% snap share before leaving in the fourth quarter. Vaughn, if he’s able to play, would be the 1A option and Bell would be the 1B option in this backfield if RoJo is unable to play against the Panthers in the season finale. Bernard could take back his role as the team’s passing back if he’s able to get off the injured reserve. Vaughn broke off a 55-yard touchdown run on his way to 13.0 FP against Carolina in Week 16. The Panthers are giving up the sixth-fewest FPG (20.4) to RBs this season.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.3 (12th)
Plays per game: 61.7 (19th)
Pass: 62.9% (8th) | Run: 37.1% (25th)
Pace: 27.1 (7th)
Plays per game: 67.3 (3rd)
Pass: 66.5% (1st) | Run: 33.5% (32nd)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
This game has clear and obvious playing time concerns between the Panthers being completely dead and the Bucs’ not being able to really improve their playoff lot. Tampa is also very banged up, especially defensively, so I don’t really buy HC Bruce Arians when he says his starters will play the full game. Maybe they play a half? The spread has stayed pat at Bucs’ -8 all week, but that could largely be driven by the Panthers trotting out Sam Darnold one last time. If we knew that Brady & Co. were full-go, they would easily be -14 or -15 favorites here.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
I scratched my head upon seeing Cyril Grayson on the field at the expense of a proven commodity like Scotty Miller or the upside play of Jaelon Darden. I fully expected one of those two or Breshad Perriman (when he cleared COVID) – a proven Cover 1 assassin – to send Grayson back to the bench. I knew Grayson had outstanding speed after being a track star at LSU, and we could definitely see that speed for ourselves. But to go from playing zero football in college to starting for the defending Super Bowl champions just didn’t mesh. I was wrong.
Grayson is the guy who should benefit from Antonio Brown’s career-defining temper tantrum. Put it this way, on the 11 targets to Grayson the last two weeks – as well as the 50-yard TD he caught in Week 8, he’s returned a perfect 158.3 TPR.
We can sum up the entire Carolina offense in one long sentence. With 273 total yards against TB in Week 16, Sam Darnold completed less than 50% of his attempts without a TD, Chuba Hubbard averaged 1.5 YPC, Sideshow Bob Anderson ($4.5K/$5.5K) actually topped 10 FPs (10.8 with nearly two-thirds of his yardage inside LB coverage), and D.J. Moore put his 11th example of scoring under his floor in the last 12 games.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The Panthers are a disaster and the season is mercifully almost over. We’ll see if it’s Matt Rhule’s final game in Carolina, given he has apparently drawn the ire of David Tepper.
Well, the QB situation doesn’t necessarily help.
Matt Rhule said there's a chance he could play other QBs besides Sam Darnold. P.J. Walker just came off COVID, so would likely be Cam Newton if anyone.— Joe Person (@josephperson) January 5, 2022
WR Robby Anderson (quad) is dealing with an injury this week and Carolina just put disappointing rookie Terrace Marshall (foot) on IR.
While the Bucs say they’re going to play starters in this game, the markets don’t necessarily buy it — this game opened as a 16.5-point line but is down as low as 8 in most places. The Bucs should be in the business of getting as healthy as possible for the playoffs.
#Bucs HC Bruce Arians says that players that have been out such as Leonard Fournette, Shaq, JPP and Lavonte David are trending in the right direction for the playoffs. They'll wait and see about David.— PewterReport (@PewterReport) January 5, 2022
And then there’s the Antonio Brown saga…
1. This has obviously become he said-they said.— Edwin Porras, DPT (@FBInjuryDoc) January 6, 2022
2. I understand the source hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt.
3. The story itself, in a vacuum, seems completely plausible https://t.co/Q8h5lfh1SA
Yeah, this week should be about pushing distractions out of the way and not getting more players — especially Tom Brady — hurt. The Bucs cannot be the #1 seed in the NFC, so the rest just seems like window dressing.
If Brady does play, CB Stephon Gilmore is on the COVID list, which would open things up for Mike Evans and Cyril Grayson.