The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are fresh off their first road win in a long, long time. Meanwhile, the Raiders are coming off a beatdown of their division rival Chiefs. Which team holds the edge when they clash on Sunday? I see clear value with the road team, so let's dig a little deeper into this match-up.
Last week the look-ahead line on this game had the Raiders as field goal favorites. I was hoping we would see a similar number when the lines went back on the board on Sunday night, but the current line sits at -1 or -2 depending on where you shop (odds from SBRforum).
The reason I still like the Bucs at this number is because I believe the wrong team is favored. Even with the Raiders win over KC, I have Tampa as short favorites. If this is a close game, I feel a lot better about have a couple extra points in my pocket rather than the other way around.
Tampa Has an Offense?
I picked the Bucs to cover the spread when they went into Minnesota, partly because they do have the talent on offense to put up some numbers. The problem so far has been consistency. We are never quite sure what we are going to get from this bunch, but the last couple weeks should be reason for tempered optimism.
The added bonus is that they get to face a defense that is just as inconsistent. The Raiders are below average in every meaningful category across the board and only had seven sacks in six games prior to Week 8. They deserve no extra credit because they got to the Chiefs quarterbacks a few times.
Football Outsiders have the Bucs O-line adjusted sack rate near the top of the league, so there is no reason to be concerned about a mismatch in the trenches. This should give the likes of Freeman, Jackson, Williams, and Martin enough opportunity to move the ball and put up some points in Oakland. It also helps that the Bucs have been one of the better teams at converting red zone trips into touchdowns this year - an area that the Raiders have struggled in defensively.
No Talib, No Wright, No Problem?
The news this week that Eric Wright might get suspended could put the Bucs secondary at a serious disadvantage on Sunday. Aqib Talib is out one more game serving his own suspension, so we might see Ronde Barber return to corner in this match-up. At the same time, there's a chance Wright's case doesn't get decided until after this game so that's something to keep an eye on as the week unfolds.
While that situation certainly isn't good, it's also not the end of the world either. Carson Palmer has been nothing more than average this year and their offensive stats are borderline atrocious across the board. Darren McFadden might have gotten back on track against the Chiefs, but the Bucs have been pretty solid against the run for most of the year.
What should be more of a concern for Oakland is how to move the ball consistently and how to convert those chances into touchdowns once they get inside the 20. They rank near the bottom in both categories.
I actually have some faith in Tampa's defense based on the quality of competition they've faced this season and Da'Quan Bowers return has come at a great time. He only saw 12 snaps last week, but he's had a couple extra days off so his playing time should increase in this game.
The Bucs defense also ranks near the top on third down and in the red zone. If the Raiders are forced to kick too many field goals, they are not winning this game.
The books gave Tampa Bay a little extra respect after Week 8, but I believe the adjustment wasn't enough. Aside from home field advantage, I don't see much on Oakland's roster to warrant this point spread. The mismatch that the Bucs own in the make-or-break situations is noteworthy. Right now, they've earned the right to be called the better team. Take the points.
NFL Pick: TB +2.