Carolina was 12-4 last season and won the AFC South but they will finish below .500 in 2014. The Panthers lost receivers Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell in the offseason. They surprisingly only addressed that need in the draft when they selected Kelvin Benjamin. Quarterback Cam Newton has new receivers to throw too but hasn’t had much time to work with them because he is nursing broken ribs. The Panthers have a strong defense and have invested a lot of money in their rushing game but running the football isn’t a key to long-term success in the NFL.
The Buccaneers look like they will be this year’s Chiefs. They have a new coach, a new quarterback and solid pieces on both sides of the ball. Lovie Smith is familiar with Tampa Bay and a perfect fit for that team. I’m not fully sold on Josh McCown as a starting quarterback but he has two big targets in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. Doug Martin is primed for a bounce back season after a sophomore slump. The defense should be able to stop a banged up Newton.
The Panthers were a road favorite when this line opened and there has been a lot of movement since. Even with the drastic line move, the Buccaneers under a field goal is a solid pick.
Pick: Buccaneers (-2)