Week 8 of the NFL season gets going Thursday night with a matchup between the Baltimore Ravens (-1.5, 45) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Baltimore (4-3) is coming off a win over the Browns, while the Bucs have lost four of their last five, including two straight. What can we expect from a betting standpoint Thursday night?
Betting analysts Doug Kezirian, Tyler Fulghum, Joe Fortenbaugh, Anita Marks and Erin Dolan; fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and Andre Snellings; and ESPN Stats & Information’s Seth Walder, ESPN analyst Jason Fitz and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz provide their top plays for the matchup.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
Tom Brady and the struggling Bucs have lost four of their last five. Brady is a rare underdog at home; it’s only the 13th time in 187 career home games he is getting points at home. Do you like the Bucs to right the ship or are Lamar Jackson and the Ravens the correct play on the road?
Fortenbaugh: I can’t bring myself to back either of these teams when it comes to the side because I don’t trust the Ravens in the fourth quarter, and I don’t trust the Buccaneers, period. However, what I would bet is Baltimore on the first half money line (-115). The Ravens rank in the top-6 in the NFL in both first half scoring and first half scoring defense with a first half scoring differential of +6.4. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, ranks 29th in first half scoring and boasts a first half scoring differential of -1.6. This eliminates me having to experience yet another Baltimore fourth-quarter choke job.
Kezirian: I agree with Joe. We often discuss derivatives (quarters, halves, etc.), and sometimes the handicap involves a narrative or hunch. Other times it contains substance. I think this is a legitimate angle for Baltimore in the first half. I think there is a reason the Ravens and Eagles are such strong teams in the first half, and I believe the common ground is a unique offense. You can only watch so much tape, but until you experience it defensively, it is a shock to the system. Lamar is a cheat code and the Ravens are extremely prepared. Remember, this is a team that has not lost a preseason game since before electricity, and John Harbaugh is a former special teams coach who fixates on details. As for the Bucs, I am as baffled as anyone when evaluating the past two weeks. This is a play on Baltimore and hope Tampa’s struggles continue.
Moody: Neither of these teams have been kind to bettors recently. It has been surprising to see the Bucs lose consecutive games to the Steelers and Panthers, but it’s a great matchup for Tampa Bay against a Ravens secondary that has allowed the seventh-most passing yards this season. With the Buccaneers at rock bottom, there is a good chance that things will turn around. Brady has a 14-3 record on Thursday Night Football. I recommend betting on the Buccaneers.
Schatz: Both of these teams are in the same boat of being better than their win-loss records indicate. Football Outsiders DVOA ratings have Baltimore as the best of the 4-3 teams (fifth) and Tampa Bay as the best of the 3-4 teams (eighth). I think this line is pretty spot-on, and betting on this game is complicated by the injuries. The Buccaneers will be missing a number of defensive backs while the Ravens may not have Mark Andrews (questionable, has not practiced this week) or Rashod Bateman (questionable, but has practiced this week). If Andrews is going to play, I would go with the Ravens on the road here. If Andrews is inactive, the whole game is too questionable to play.
Marks: This pirate ship is going down! I’ll lay the points with the Ravens. I also love the Ravens early in the game (Ravens first quarter money line and first half each at -105). Baltimore has actually gotten better on defense in its last four games, whereas the Bucs are suffering from a post-wedding party hangover. Brady’s offense is only scoring on 13% of their drives; in fact, they have not scored a touchdown in 16 first-quarter possessions all season. The Bucs defense is allowing opponents to score touchdowns in 75% of their red zone possessions (second-highest rate in the league). They allowed two backup running backs (Chuba Hubbard and D’Onta Foreman) to run for 181 total yards last week, and now are expected to be without safety Antoine Winfield Jr. Lamar Jackson and company should have a field day!
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Despite not having sole possession of first place, both teams are still favorites to win their division, with the Ravens -160 to win the AFC North and the Bucs -220 to win the NFC South. Both are 18-1 to win the Super Bowl. Which team are you more comfortable betting on for a season bet?
Fortenbaugh: Baltimore, but only because I’m being asked to pick between the two. This is just a gut feeling, but I think the Buccaneers are starting to check out on Brady. It’s one thing when you’re getting yelled at by a quarterback who is setting the tone and delivering week in and week out. It’s another thing when you’re getting yelled at by a guy who missed weeks of training camp, as well as time to attend his friend’s wedding. The talent is there, but the Buccaneers look disorganized and disinterested, and I think part of that is due to Brady’s drama.
Walder: I don’t think either team is a value at those prices. Instead, I’d look at the Falcons at +350. Look, Atlanta’s not great and the Bucs probably (right?) figure it out. But I’ll say this about Atlanta: Both their rushing offense and their passing offense have been efficient. Their defense has held them back so far, but it’s much easier to turn that around.
Schatz: Based on my numbers, neither of those division title bets are a good value, but Baltimore to win the Super Bowl at 18-1 has a tiny bit of value. I would have those odds closer to 15-1. Baltimore is fifth in DVOA, including fifth on offense (which is more consistent than defense). The Ravens have played well this year, and those fourth-quarter collapses are not necessarily going to continue. Bad play in the fourth quarter early in the year doesn’t correlate to bad play in the fourth quarter later in the year.
Snellings: I’ve been vocal since the preseason that I have the Bengals winning the AFC North (+160), and I’m more confident of that today than I’ve been all season. In the AFC North, the Bengals to win is the value. In the NFC South, I think the Bucs are most likely to win because the division has played so poorly that the Bucs are still right there. But I don’t see any value for them at -220. Instead, if I like the Bucs I’d probably wait until after this game and hope that the Ravens win to increase the value of a Bucs play. If I wanted to bet the NFC South right now (scary thought), I would likely go Saints (+650) as a team that has plenty of upside once its quarterback and best receivers get healthy and is still right in the mix as we approach the second half of the season.
It’s a matchup of MVP QBs with Jackson and Brady. The player props listed are 281.5 pass yards for Brady, 206.5 for Jackson and 61.5 rush yards for Lamar. Both have TD props of 1.5, but Brady’s is juiced to the over and Jackson’s to the under. Are you playing any of them?
Dolan: I would play Brady over 281.5 passing yards, but I would not play it any higher than this number. I could see the Bucs leaning on the passing game in this matchup given Baltimore is not great against the pass, ranking 26th in opponent passing yards per game. Brady hit over 281.5 passing yards in just three matchups this year, but I see him leaning on the wide receiver corps in this TNF matchup.
Schatz: I will also take the Brady passing yardage over, although I think the Baltimore pass defense is pretty good — when it comes to per-play efficiency, that is. The Ravens rank eighth in pass defense DVOA, in part because they have played the hardest defensive schedule in the league. However, their style of defense — and those early leads they get out to — leads to opponents passing the ball a lot against them; 67.6% of plays against Baltimore are dropbacks (vs. NFL average of 61.6%). I think Tampa Bay will be coming with that passing volume, especially when we consider that its running game has stunk this year.
Marks: I like Brady under 281.5 passing yards and Jackson over 61.5 rushing yards. The Ravens are starting to pressure quarterbacks over their last four games. Brady is only averaging 2.24 seconds after the snap to get the ball off and is sporting a measly 52% completion percentage. I envision a lot of three-and-outs for the Bucs offense, while the Ravens will have a ton of success running the ball and will eat up time of possession. If Marcus Mariota could put up 61 rushing yards against the Bucs defense, Lamar should surpass this number.
Snellings: I’ll also go Jackson over 61.5 rushing yards. While the Bucs defense has the strong reputation against the run, their strength is in stacking up the middle and snapping up the edges when the back tries to bounce. Jackson, as the quarterback, would be running at a temporal delay that allows for lanes to open up. The Bucs defense has been middle of the pack in rushing yards allowed to quarterbacks, ranking 14th in the NFL.
Are you playing anything else in this matchup?
Moody: I’d bet Mike Evans over 68.5 receiving yards (-119). He had some awful drops last week against the Panthers, but I think he’ll bounce back. Evans still caught nine of 15 targets for 96 yards at Carolina and is averaging 75.7 receiving yards per game this season. With Julio Jones and Russell Gage out and the Buccaneers’ running game averaging an anemic 2.9 yards per carry, Evans should continue to see a great deal of targets. Brady has a passer rating of 115.7 when targeting Evans. I also like Gus Edwards as an anytime touchdown scorer (+135). As the Ravens’ lead back, he should continue to see a lot of touches. The last four games Edwards has had with 15 or more touches have resulted in either 120 or more total yards or a touchdown.
Walder: Shaq Barrett over 0.25 sacks (+265 at DraftKings). I have this as a really nice value, with a 38% chance that Barrett records at least half a sack according to my model. Barrett is on a bit of a cold streak sacks-wise — he hasn’t recorded one since Week 2 — but he has a decent pass rush win rate (19% at edge, which ranks 18th among qualifiers) and Lamar Jackson has taken sacks at an average 6% clip this year.
Marks: Leonard Fournette under 84.5 rushing/receiving yards (-115). Rachaad White played 29 snaps last week, carried the ball two less times than Fournette, but put up more yardage. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry, while Fournette was under 2.4. More playing time for White is on the way. I’m fading Fournette.
Snellings: Fournette over 50.5 rushing yards. While game script dictated that the Bucs abandon the run against the Chiefs and (shockingly) the Panthers, when Fournette has gotten carries he has been productive. He has had more than 12 carries in four of the seven games, and in all four he’s rushed for 56 or more yards (averaging 77.8 rushing yards per game in those four contests). I expect the Bucs to try to run the ball early, to slow down the Ravens’ offense and try to punch them in the mouth early, the way the Browns did last week.
Ravens at Buccaneers Thursday Night
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