Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 8:00 PM
On the one hand, it’s not that surprising that the Tampa Bay Bucs are once again off to a disappointing start. They’ve just gone through several disappointing seasons. And, the team is transitioning to a new head coach (Lovie Smith) and a new starting quarterback (Josh McCown). You can’t expect miracles right away! On the other…the team is 0-2 despite being home favorite of more than a field goal against backup quarterbacks in each of their first two games!
*Tampa Bay was laying -4 to Derek Anderson and the Carolina Panthers in their season opener. The offense struggled badly against the strong Carolina defense (gaining only 4.8 yards-per-play and losing the ball three times), and dropped a 20-14 decision.
*Tampa Bay was also laying -4 to Austin Davis and the St. Louis Rams the next week, and fell 19-17 despite doing a better job of moving the ball. Moving between the 20’s doesn’t put points on the board!
Those results were particularly disappointing to Vegas sharps, who had bet Carolina heavily in the first week when it became clear that Cam Newton was going to sit out for the Panthers…and then who continued to respect the Bucs against the shorthanded Rams. The honeymoon is certainly over for the sharps and the Bucs!
What about the fans? Should they give up on the team already after such a poor showing? As harsh as it sounds, the answer might be a resounding YES!
*Lovie Smith has established very clearly in his head coaching career that he has no idea how to put together an offense. He’s a defensive mastermind with proven success on that side of the ball. His ceiling as a head coach is a borderline playoff team featuring a great defense and a poor offense. Tampa Bay’s problems entering the season were on offense. He’s not the guy to fix that.
*Josh McCown had surprising short term success last year in the stead of Jay Cutler up in Chicago. But, that was playing for offensive guru Marc Trestman. McCown was getting “credit” for what was being created by Trestman’s schematics and general play-calling approach. Put McCown on a Lovie Smith team…and he’s back to being irrelevant.
The good news is that Tampa Bay will be facing the poor Atlanta defense Thursday Night indoors on a fast track. This is the Atlanta defense that allowed 472 yards to Cincinnati last week…and to New Orleans the week before in an overtime game. That’s 472 yards both times! If Tampa Bay can’t make it to 20 points this week, you can stick a fork in them already.
Let’s quickly run through our indicator stats before calling it a day.
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Tampa Bay: 0-2 (lost at home to backup QB’s for Carolina and St. Louis)
Atlanta: 1-1 (won at home vs. New Orleans, but lost at Cincinnati)
Atlanta may or may not be a playoff contender this season. New Orleans just lost at Cleveland, who definitely isn’t. Tampa Bay has opened like a 5-11 type team at best.
Tampa Bay: 5.6 on offense, 5.3 on defense
Atlanta: 6.5 on offense, 6.8 on defense
Good news here for Tampa Bay with the better differential as a market underdog of nearly a touchdown. They’re finally not being overpriced by the market in terms of peripheral stats. And, they would quality as a “defensive dog” with an advantage of 1.5 yards-per-play on that side of the ball. Though, that advantage does shrink if you adjust for the caliber of QB’s they were facing, and the fact that Atlanta had to deal with Drew Brees.
Tampa Bay: -3
Problems here for both teams, and an early red flag that neither is ready to be a force in the NFC South this season. The loser of this game will be in real trouble going forward anyway!
Tampa Bay: failed to even win straight up twice as home favorites
Atlanta: split, but was so badly outclassed at Cincinnati that it surprised many in markets
The two teams are a combined 1-3 ATS…and have mostly failed to play anywhere near expectations except for the Falcons hanging tough with notoriously poor traveler New Orleans. Oddsmakers and the Wise Guys may have had these teams 2-3 points too high in their season-starting Power Ratings.
Current Line: Atlanta by 6.5, total of 45
The price is higher than it would have been in Week One, which tells you something about how much the market has soured on Tampa Bay. The Bucs were favored over Carolina (with Anderson)! Now they’re almost a full TD underdog to the Falcons?
JIM HURLEY believes he has this one pegged correctly. You can purchase the very best from Bucs/Falcons and that great Auburn/Kansas State college football game right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about seasonal packages, or combination packages for football and baseball, call us in the office any time during regular business hours Monday at 1-888-777-4155.
More great TV matchups coming up the next few days in the NOTEBOOK…
Friday: College Football Early Look…Florida at Alabama
Saturday: College Football TV Preview…Clemson at Florida State
Sunday: NFL Sunday Night TV Preview…Pittsburgh at Carolina
Monday: NFL Monday Night TV Preview…Chicago at the NY Jets
Lovie Smith may be on the hot season already in Tampa Bay. The honeymoon is never over for NETWORK clients…who have been cashing tickets for DECADES thanks to the proven handicapping prowess of WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!