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Saturday, Aug 18, 2018
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NFL point spreads are out. Here are the best Bucs bets.

Las Vegas continues to be down on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

First, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook set the team’s over/under line at 6.5 wins, the lowest total of any team in the NFC South.

Now, CG Technology has released point spreads for every game through Week 16, and it has the Bucs as underdogs in all but three contests. The sports book has Tampa Bay as a 5.5-point favorite against Cleveland in Week 7, a 3.5-point favorite against Washington in Week 10 and a 1-point favorite against Carolina in Week 13. (CG Technology did not release spreads for Week 17 games because teams that have clinched playoff spots by then might choose to rest their players.)

I reviewed the lines for each Bucs game and identified a handful that I’d be interested in, if I were the betting type. (Although the Supreme Court this week struck down a 1992 law that made sports gambling illegal in most states, it’s still not legal in Florida. The state Legislature, or voters by referendum, would have to authorize it first.)

A window into my thinking for this just-for-fun exercise:

• The public loves favorites and overreacts to the thing that just happened. I’m a contrarian, a buy-low, sell-high guy. A team coming off a blowout loss doesn’t scare me; it intrigues me.

• I’m an amateur at picking games against the spread, so I don’t trust my instincts. Data > hunches.

• I prefer to be selective. During the season, Tampa Bay Times sports writers make picks against the spread for every NFL game. If I had money at stake, I’d make picks only for the games in which the conditions seemed favorable.

Finally, to the picks …

Point spreads I like

Week 1: Bucs at Saints (-7)

The last time these teams played in New Orleans, the Saints crushed the Bucs, so to some the seven-point spread will seem justified. But early in a season, chaos reigns. In Week 1 last season, only seven of the 15 favorites covered. Against-the-spread pick: Bucs.

Week 2: Eagles (-3) at Bucs

The Super Bowl champion Eagles open the season on a Thursday night against the Falcons, meaning they’ll have 10 days of rest before playing the Bucs. That doesn’t mean anything. After playing on a Thursday, teams are no more likely to win their next game. Here’s why I lean Philly: Under coach Dirk Koetter, the Bucs are 8-8 straight up at home and 7-9 ATS, but over the first half of the season, they’re 2-6 SU at home and 1-7 ATS. ATS pick: Eagles.

Week 3: Steelers (-4) at Bucs

Interesting that the Steelers are bigger road favorites than the Eagles. That could be Las Vegas anticipating that bettors will be overly confident about Pittsburgh’s chances against Tampa Bay. Since 2007, coach Mike Tomlin’s first season, the Steelers have the third-best win percentage in road games (.580). The Bucs might have caught a break by playing them in early in the season, however. Under Tomlin, Pittsburgh has a .409 win percentage in September road games. ATS pick: Bucs.

Week 6: Bucs at Falcons (-7)

Another game where the perceived difference between teams might be greater than the actual difference. Julio Jones’ monster game last season (12 catches, 253 receiving yards, two touchdowns) will linger in some bettors’ minds, but the Bucs’ defense will be more equipped to contain the Falcons’ offense this time around. Plus, Tampa Bay will be coming off a bye while Atlanta will be coming off a road game in Pittsburgh. ATS pick: Bucs.

Week 12: 49ers (-1) at Bucs

I don’t understand why the NFL schedules games like this. A West Coast team should never play a 1 p.m. game on the East Coast. Buffalo, Philadelphia and Washington went a combined 8-0 in such games last season. I’ll take my chances with the home team. ATS pick: Bucs.

Week 15: Bucs at Ravens (-6)

The Ravens were a playoff-caliber team last season, but heading into this season, they’re a team in transition, on the field and in the front office. General manager Ozzie Newsome will leave his post after this season, and Joe Flacco might follow. His play has declined in each of the past three seasons, so it makes sense that Baltimore traded up to get Lamar Jackson in the first round of April’s draft. Jackson won’t start right away, but if Flacco continues to struggle and the Ravens aren’t in contention heading into December, we could see Jackson take over. ATS pick: Bucs.

Point spreads I don’t like

Week 4: Bucs at Bears (-2.5)

It’s tempting to dismiss the Bears, who have been a nonfactor four seasons in a row. But have the Bucs done much better? Sure, they’ve addressed their biggest weakness (the defensive line), but so have the Bears (the pass offense). Mitchell Trubisky now has Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton to throw to. The biggest change of all, though, is at head coach, where Chicago hired Matt Nagy, who was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City last season.

Week 7: Browns at Bucs (-5.5)

The Browns should be vastly improved, particularly at quarterback. I don’t see Cleveland throwing a league-high 28 interceptions again. Whether it’s Tyrod Taylor or Baker Mayfield taking snaps, both do an excellent job of taking care of the football. Taylor has a 1.4 percent career interception rate, and Mayfield had a 2.0 percent rate in college.

Week 11: Bucs at Giants (-3)

Historically, the Bucs have not had much success in New York/New Jersey. They’ve lost seven of eight road games against the Giants.

Week 16: Bucs at Cowboys (-6)

The Bucs haven’t had much success in Dallas, either. They’ve lost nine of 10 games there, including a 2016 contest in which Jameis Winston threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.

Point spreads for every Bucs game

Week 1: Bucs at Saints (-7)

Week 2: Eagles (-3) at Bucs

Week 3: Steelers (-4) at Bucs

Week 4: Bucs at Bears (-2.5)

Week 5: bye

Week 6: Bucs at Falcons (-7)

Week 7: Browns at Bucs (-5.5)

Week 8: Bucs at Bengals (-1.5)

Week 9: Bucs at Panthers (-5.5)

Week 10: Washington at Bucs (-3.5)

Week 11: Bucs at Giants (-3)

Week 12: 49ers (-1) at Bucs

Week 13: Panthers at Bucs (-1)

Week 14: Saints (-3) at Bucs

Week 15: Bucs at Ravens (-6)

Week 16: Bucs at Cowboys (-6)

Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected]. Follow @tometrics.

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