Tampa Bay @ Detroit
Detroit -6 -104 over Tampa Bay

Posted at 9:30 AM EST. Odds subject to change.

Pinnacle -6 -104 BET365 -6 -110 Sportsinteraction -6 -110 888Sport -6½ +100

Detroit -6 -104 over Tampa Bay

Ford Field - Detroit, Michigan - NBC

3:00 PM EST. At this point in the NFL season, with just 8 teams remaining, the market is rather sharp. Contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t mean most games end around the closing number, it means oddsmakers get better and better at finding the theoretical “middle” of public perception. Right now perception couldn’t get any higher on either of these teams, but oddsmakers still don't see them as equals, nor do we. We thought Tampa could be among the least winningest programs in the NFL this season, but Baker Mayfield and a motivated, veteran roster have flipped that opinion upside down. Winners of six of their last seven games and one week after ousting last year’s #1 seed, the Bucs now find themselves in the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs. Who could have seen that coming?

Tampa is built off a sound defense, constructed by one of the brighter defensive minds in the NFL in head coach Todd Bowles, and their offense is good at weathering storms thanks to Baker Mayfield's resurgence. Mayfield is one of the feel-good stories of the divisional round, a spark plug on his fourth NFL team, and the energizer the Bucs needed just one year removed from the incomparable Tom Brady as their QB1. And if you weren’t aware of Baker’s fighter-mentality and poise in the clutch, last week’s performance against the Birds was a great showcase (22-36, 337 yards, 3 TDs, no INTS). 

The problem about this spread isn’t about the Bucs, it’s about their opponent. Tampa will experience a massive upgrade in competition this Sunday, and we’re not confident they’re equipped for it. Of course we could simply look back at evidence from earlier this year, when Detroit dominated the Bucs in Tampa in Week 6, but we need more than just a one-game sample size. The reality is that the Bucs are a bad matchup for the Lions, and that gets even more exacerbated in Michigan. Detroit’s wide receivers and running backs are all about speed on their home-turf, something that only the Packers and the Seahawks (in OT in Week 2) were able to keep pace with. Tampa’s veteran defense is stout, but they’re also not nearly as agile or athletic as they once were. Detroit’s defense is also extremely good against the run, allowing just 3.7 yards per carry to opposing running backs. Rashaad White and the Tampa-run-game has markedly improved this season, but sustained success will prove difficult against a defensive line that prides itself on limiting opposing backs (they only permit 87.6 ypg this season). That means Mayfield and the Bucs’ pass-offense, a group that qualifies as “average” according to all season-long statistics, will face tremendous pressure to keep their team in this contest. As much as we love Baker's comeback story, good defenses have limited Tampa’s production all year. 

The Bucs’ win against the Eagles was impressive, but let’s face it – that was more about their opponent’s sudden demise. Philly was lifeless last Monday night. Now the Bucs have to head up to Ford Field against a franchise and culture that’s the exact opposite of lifeless. Detroit will be rocking, Dan Campbell’s aggressive style counteracts Baker’s moxie, and the Lions’ hyper-speed offense is really tough for opposing offenses to contend with. We love the Lions at a number that’s way too short.



Our Pick

Detroit -6 -104 (Risking 2.08 units - To Win: 2.00)