We need to find out who are this year’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In 2011, the Bucs went 4-12 against the spread. That’s certainly terrible, but it’s even worse when you realize they closed the season with a 1-9 mark against the number. The Bucs failed to cover in their last six games and lost those contests by an average score of 38-18.
A few candidates seem poised to close this season in an equally pitiful manner. Philadelphia absolutely qualifies; its futility is seemingly bottomless. The Eagles are a miserable 1-8-1 against the number and haven’t covered since Oct. 7.
During this 0-5 streak, they’ve been outscored by an average of 31-16. Philadelphia’s starting quarterback and running back are concussed, its coach is embattled, and its offensive line is in shambles. This is a team to keep an eye on during the final six weeks.
Oakland and Kansas City also seem to be aspirants of a 2011-like Tampa Bay finish. The Raiders, 3-7 against the spread, haven’t covered in four of five and have been outscored in their last three by 64 points. Two of those games were in Oakland.
The hapless Chiefs have similar numbers: 3-7 against the spread, haven’t covered in four of five, and are just as likely to get blown out at home as they are on the road.
Kansas City and Oakland play each other in three weeks. NBC should hype the matchup as “The Gross Bowl.”
This week’s picks (home team in caps):
CINCINNATI (-8) over Oakland: With two straight wins, the Bengals have emerged into the playoff hunt. Cincinnati is 4-5-1 against the spread, but against non-AFC North opponents, its mark against the number is 4-2. Risking $165 to win $150.
INDIANAPOLIS (-3) over Buffalo: The Bills beat the Dolphins two Thursdays ago, but even in victory, Buffalo is exasperating. Its play-calling is baffling and its quarterback play is erratic. The Bills are in trouble at Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Colts are 4-1 against the spread. Risking $165 to win $150.
TAMPA BAY (+1) over Atlanta: The Bucs have won four straight — while averaging 35 points per game — and are underdogs at home? It truly is a time to give thanks. Risking $165 to win $150.
Last week: 1-2, minus $120. Season: 19-24, minus $698.