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NFL Preview: Handicapping Monday Night Football

Monday Night Football Gambling Preview – Tampa Bay at Carolina

First place in the NFC South is on the line when the Carolina Panthers (9-3, 6-5-1 ATS) host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3, 7-5 ATS) on Monday Night Football. Oddsmakers have the Panthers as 3-point favorites on the NFL betting board for the matchup, with the total currently listed at 38.  

Jeff Garcia-led teams have won five consecutive games SU against Carolina, including the Buccaneers’ 27-3 stifling of the Panthers on October 12. Garcia was an efficient 15-of-20 for 173 yards with a touchdown for Tampa Bay, winners as 1-point home faves.

Warrick Dunn led the Bucs’ attack with 115 rushing yards on 22 carries, while now-injured running back Earnest Graham finished with 58 all-purpose yards and two scores for Tampa Bay. Quarterback Jake Delhomme went 20-of-39 for two TD passes and three interceptions, while wide receiver Steve Smith caught six balls for 112 yards for the Panthers, who were held to only 40 yards on the ground.

The Buccaneers are coming off a 23-20 win at home against the New Orleans Saints, although Tampa Bay couldn’t cover as 3.5-point favorites. Kicker Matt Bryant’s 37-yard field goal with 1:55 remaining in the fourth quarter was the difference for the Bucs, who have gone 3-4 against the number while winning six of their last seven games SU.

Garcia overcame a 9-of-23 performance to throw for 119 yards with a touchdown, while Dunn paced the Tampa Bay offense with 74 yards on 22 attempts. Wideout Antonio Bryant hauled in three passes for 63 yards with a TD reception for the Buccaneers, who managed to hold Reggie Bush, Deuce McAllister, and the Saints ground game to only 44 yards in the victory.

The Panthers slipped past the slumping Green Bay Packers in a 35-31 triumph last Sunday to keep pace with the Bucs atop the division. DeAngelo Williams’ 1-yard dive into the end zone with 1:33 to go lifted Carolina bettors to the payday as 3-point road underdogs, as the Panthers played over the total for the fourth time in five games.

Williams finished with a career-high four touchdowns on 72 yards rushing for Carolina, which is red-hot like its counterparts in Tampa Bay. The Panthers have won five of their last six SU, but are struggling to convert the wins into money for their backers, having gone 3-3 against the number during the streak.

Delhomme went 12-of-17 for 177 yards in the win, while Smith racked up 105 yards receiving on only four catches for the Panthers. Carolina continued to be a profitable play on grass in the cover, as the Panthers improved to 9-3-1 ATS in their last 13 games played on the natural surface.

The trend isn’t the only one that has handicappers talking heading into Monday night. Despite the Panthers’ recent propensity to play over the number, almost all other indicators point towards the teams playing under the posted total. Carolina is 2-7 O/U in its last nine games against NFC South opponents including Tampa Bay, which has played under in six of its last eight contests. The Panthers are also 3-10 O/U in their last 13 home games, while the teams have cashed for under bettors in 11 of their last 16 meetings.

Sharp bettors focusing on the spread are likely siding with the Bucs, who head into the game getting a field goal from a Panthers team they handled by more than three scores last time around. While Carolina gets the requisite three points for hosting the Monday nighter, players should take note the underdog is 8-3 ATS in the last 11 showdowns between the teams.

Tampa Bay should be without key players on both sides of the ball against the Panthers. Veteran WR Ike Hilliard is questionable with a shoulder injury, while defensive end Gaines Adams is also questionable with a hip injury for the Buccaneers. Adams’ absence is more problematic for the Bucs, who have had difficulty stopping the run at times this season – Tampa Bay has allowed at least 100 yards rushing against in seven of its 12 games.

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