Panthers vs Buccaneers Week 18 Picks and Predictions: Tampa Does Its Part for No. 2 Seed

Tampa Bay will be motivated to chase playoff seeding, while Carolina might just be motivated to hit the links. Find out why we're backing the defending champs to close out the regular season strong with our Panthers vs Buccaneers picks.

Shawn Wronka - Contributor at
Jan 9, 2022 • 15:22 ET • 5 min read
Tom Brady Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play in an NFC South matchup with lopsided amounts of motivation. The Panthers, losers of six straight, are eliminated from playoff contention and seemingly in the final days of Matt Rhule's tenure as head coach. The Bucs have their eyes set on moving into the No. 2 seed, which they can accomplish with a win and some help from the 49ers in their game against the Rams.

Continue reading for our free NFL picks and predictions for Panthers vs Buccaneers on Sunday, January 9.

Panthers vs Buccaneers odds

Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.

The Buccaneers opened as 8-to-9-point favorites across varying books and have largely held their spots. The total opened at 43.5 in some shops but has since moved down to 41.5.

Use the live odds widget above to track any future line movements right up until kickoff and be sure to check out the full NFL odds before placing your bets.

Panthers vs Buccaneers predictions

Predictions made on 1/7/2022 at 12:10 p.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.

Best Panthers vs Buccaneers bonuses

If you're signing up for a new sportsbook for NFL Week 18, here are two of the best welcome bonuses available:

USA: Sign up with Caesars and get your first bet matched up to $1,001! Claim Now

Canada: Bet $1, get $100 in free bets when you sign up with BetVictor! Sign Up Now

Panthers vs Buccaneers game info

Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Date: Sunday, January 9, 2022
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET

Panthers at Buccaneers betting preview


Monitor gametime conditions with our live NFL weather info and learn how weather impacts NFL betting.

Key injuries

Panthers: Sean Chandler S (Out), Jeremy Chinn S (Out), Yetur Gross-Matos DE (Out), Stephon Gilmore CB (Out), Kamal Martin LB (Out), Jacob Tuioti-Mariner DE (Out), Azur Kamara DE (Out), John Miller G (Out), P.J. Walker QB (Out).
Buccaneers: Richard Sherman CB (Out), Shaquil Barrett LB (Out), Ronald Jones RB (Out), Jason Pierre-Paul DE (Out), Kyle Trask QB (Out), Justin Watson WR (Out), Rashard Robinson CB (Out), Nick Leverett G (Out).
Find our latest NFL injury reports.

Betting trend to know

The Panthers have failed to cover in six straight games and have a 5-11 record against the spread on the season, the second-worst record in the league. Find more NFL betting trends for Panthers vs. Buccaneers.

Panthers vs Buccaneers picks and predictions

Our predictions are compiled from the analysis of the spread and total and are indications of where we are leaning for this game.
Our best bet is the play that we like the most for this game, which we would actually put some of our bankroll behind.

Although several other games have more at stake in terms of playoff implications, the NFC South divisional matchup between the Panthers and Bucs still has a bit of juice to it. The Bucs can move up to the No. 2 seed with a win and a Rams loss, which isn't entirely unrealistic given that they play the 49ers, who will be playing for a playoff berth.

Nevertheless, if Tampa Bay's motivation is in question, it shouldn't be. Here is how Arians' teams looked heading into each Week 17 and how they fared:

2020: Clinched a playoff berth but could secure the No. 5 seed, which would guarantee a game vs the NFC East winner (the ugly race to seven wins between WAS, PHI, and NYG). They won 44-27.

2019: Already eliminated and played the also-eliminated Falcons. Played a wire-to-wire game but lost in overtime.

2018: Arians' year off of coaching.

2017: Already eliminated and starting Drew Stanton against 9-6 Seattle, who was playing for their playoff life. They won 26-24 as 10-point underdogs.

2016: Already eliminated and played the also-eliminated Rams. They won 44-6.

2015: Had a shot of securing the No. 1 seed but played the Seahawks, who were playing for their own playoff life, and needed a loss from the 14-1 Panthers. Went down early and Carolina went up 24-3 by half. Starters were pulled early in the third quarter.

2014: Had a chance at the No. 2 seed with some help, but were down to their third-string quarterback due to injuries. They lost 17-20.

2013: Had a chance at a playoff berth but were playing the 49ers, who were playing for meaningful seeding. Lost a close 20-23 game (spread was a pick 'em).

As you can see, barring the understandable exception of 2014, Arians' teams have always come to play in Week 17 no matter the scenario. And this fits well with how he has conducted himself over the years: he expects the best from his players, and he is unkind to excuses of any kind for poor play.

What about the Panthers' motivation? Losers of six straight, Carolina has shown very little to suggest they are still behind failing second-year coach Matt Rhule. During this losing streak, they've scored an average of 13.7 points per game - a mark that would rank dead last on the season. They've also allowed 28.3 points per game on defense during the skid.

Motivation aside, the matchup also isn't favorable. Star corner Stephen Gilmore was placed on the COVID list on Thursday and CJ Henderson is also questionable. This is also on top of AJ Bouye and Donte Jackson being on the IR, and Jackson is particularly notable as he nearly doubles the next-highest cornerback in snaps played. The catch? Jackson hasn't played since Week 12. This leaves the likes of fifth-round rookie Keith Taylor, Rashaan Melvin, and Myles Hartfield for Tom Brady to pick on.

On the other side of the ball, Sam Darnold will get the start again. Since Week 5, Darnold has averaged a stat line of 160 yards / 0.3 TDs / 1.3 INTs in games he has played and has eclipsed 200 yards only once during that span. After five rushing touchdowns in the first four weeks, he has run for zero since.

Prediction: Buccaneers -8 (-103)

This total largely comes down to how many points you can mark the Panthers down for and if it will be enough to reach the mark of 41.5. Given that they put up just six points in their Week 15 matchup against this same team, it's hard to see them contributing significantly in that regard.

If we throw out the final garbage-time drive that ended the game, the Panthers failed to net more than one first down on seven of their ten drives for the game. This included four three-and-outs and one four-and-out that on average took just 1:06 off the clock on average. They also laughably managed to sustain a 13-play drive that netted just 51 yards. The drive ended with a turnover on downs.

The theme here is that although Carolina may not be able to move the ball or score, their failure to sustain drives is also clock-friendly for a team that could be looking to run up the score. Given what the Bucs have to play for, we may see exactly that.

Prediction: Over 41.5 (-105)

There are admittedly several matchups this week to question the magnitude and lopsidedness of "motivation", but this is simply not one of them. Bruce Arians is not the type of coach to take the Buccaneers’ position on Sunday lightly, nor the one they possibly can leave in.

And sure, you sometimes see players on a piss-poor team rally behind what is understood to be the final game for a coach, but the Panthers have had the last two months to rally behind Rhule and what he stands for, and they very visibly have not done so.

Pick: Buccaneers -8 (-103)

Pages related to this topic

Popular Content

Legal Canadian sports betting

Best Canadian betting sites Ontario sports betting
Covers 25 Years Logo Established in 1995,
Covers is the world
leader in sports
betting information.
Covers is verified safe by: Evalon Logo GPWA Logo GDPR Logo GeoTrust Logo Evalon Logo