TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (+7.5) @ NEW YORK GIANTS
One of the spreads that immediately jumped off the page to me was Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+7.5) @ New York Giants. I think that’s an extremely generous spread for the Bucs. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I think the Bucs will go down as the most improved team from 2011. They are this year’s Cincinnati Bengals — a team with 4 wins from the prior season that goes on to to have a winning season the next year.
What do I like about the Bucs? Hopefully, a rebound from Josh Freeman. Freeman had an amazing 2010 season, but his 2011 season was dreadful. Freeman went from 25 TDs/6 INTs to 16 TDs/22 INTs. When Freeman was on, the Bucs had a 10-6 record and nearly kept the Packers out of the playoffs when the Packers went on to win a Super Bowl. Freeman also has a new playmaker in Vincent Jackson to throw to, who will compliment Mike Williams. The Bucs drafted Doug Martin with the 31st pick, a runningback out of Boise State, who many are comparing to Ray Rice. Martin had 95 rushing yards and 4 receptions for 23 yards in his NFL debut.
On defense you have DT Gerald McCoy returning from injury and paired up with DE Adrian Clayborn, both first-round picks. The secondary of the Bucs has also improved with 7th overall pick Mark Barron at safety to provide some help to two quality corners in Aqib Talib and Eric Wright.
What a lot of people forget is that the Bucs started last season 4-2 before losing their last 10 games, which can be partly blamed on injuries.This Bucs team beat both the Falcons and Saints last season in the first half of the season — they know how to beat good football teams. In 2010, the Bucs performed well on the road, covering every single road game. They beat the Saints, Redskins, Bengals, Panthers and Cardinals all on the road, covered 7.5 points against the Ravens on the road, and shut out the 49ers 21-0 on the road. If the Bucs can return to 2010 form, they can be a quality football team.
So I’ve given enough hype to the Bucs. Let’s talk about the Giants. The Giants suffered a week 1 opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys. In that game the corners for the Giants were exposed by the Cowboys. The Giants were very poor at home last season. They were 3-4-1 ATS. They covered 7 against the Rams in week 2 and beat the Packers and Cowboys. The Giants lost to the Eagles, Redskins, and Seahawks at home, and nearly lost to the Dolphins. The Giants beat Miami 20-17 and failed to cover the 9.5 points.
There are two things that must occur for the Giants to cover this spread in my opinion. First, they have to be better against the run. DeMarco Murray carried the ball 20 times last week for 131 yards (6.6 YPC). If Doug Martin carries for over 80 yards and has a 4.0 YPC average, the Bucs have a better shot at covering this spread, but if the Giants defense shuts down Martin, I’m sure they will cover. Second, the Giants receivers need to step up. Hakeem Nicks was still a little banged up in week 1 and not 100% and Victor Cruz had a subpar game.
Eli Manning was limited to 213 passing yards. Nicks may not be 100% yet, but he’ll be better than he was in week 1. Nicks had just 38 yards. Nicks will likely be covered by Aqib Talib throughout most of the game and could be limited. The matchup the Giants must exploit is Eric Wright covering Victor Cruz. Victor Cruz had 58 yards last week. If Victor Cruz has a big game, the Giants may be able to cover this spread. Lastly, there’s the redeeming factor that could give the Giants the edge. They felt embarassed by the Cowboys and may want to give this game their all.
Lastly, Josh Freeman didn’t really razzle and dazzle against a poor Panthers defense. He just managed the game — 16/24, 138 yards, 5.8 YPA, 1 TD, 0 INTs — and sat on a 10-0 lead while his defense took care of business against the Panthers. Freeman is going to have to play a better game against the Giants to cover on the road. A 138 yards and a 5.8 YPA isn’t going to cut it. At least he protected the football. If the Bucs go down early 10-0, how will Freeman respond? Will he force throws and turn the football over? That could be a concern.
The over/under in this one is 44 and I’m predicting a 24-20 Giants win. The over/under is too close to call.
The trend that I see with the Giants is that they play very well against good teams (Packers, Patriots, etc.), but tend to fail to play to their full potential against weaker opponents (Dolphins, Seahawks, etc.). Getting 7.5 points is very generous. I think 4.5 points is where this line should be. I’m going to take the points and make it a fairly confident play, but it’s not worth going nuts on since this could be a redemption game for the Giants and I don’t have a whole lot of faith in Josh Freeman just yet.
Prediction: Giants 24 – Buccaneers 20
Pick Against the Spread: Buccaneers +7.5 (Confidence: 7/10)
Teaser Pick: Bucs +13.5, Under 51 (Confidence: 7/10)
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