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Lions vs. Buccaneers odds: Can Detroit be trusted to cover?

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 28: head coach Matt Patricia of the Detroit Lions looks on during warms up prior to a game against the Chicago Bearsat Ford Field on November 28, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 28: head coach Matt Patricia of the Detroit Lions looks on during warms up prior to a game against the Chicago Bearsat Ford Field on November 28, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

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Buccaneers at Lions Betting Odds

  • Odds: Buccaneers -3.5
  • Over/Under: 46
  • Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: FOX

Jameis Winston has been one of the most volatile quarterbacks in the league this season and a regular heart attack for those who bet on him. Now, with an injured thumb, Winston leads the Bucs into Detroit against the hapless Lions.

Our experts preview Sunday’s showdown, with analysis of the biggest matchups and a pick.

Buccaneers-Lions Injury Report

Which team is healthier? Lions

The Lions have a lengthy injury report heading into Week 15. Matthew Stafford (back) is expected to be out again. Additionally, they placed Marvin Jones (ankle) on injured reserve early. Running back Bo Scarbrough (ribs) was also downgraded on Thursday to no practice. If Scarbrough can’t play, Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic would likely form a timeshare.

The Bucs are expected to lose Mike Evans for the rest of the season due to his hamstring injury, so he likely won’t be playing this week. He’s expected to be placed on injured reserve. Scotty Miller’s (hamstring, full practice Thursday) potential return will muddy the waters a little bit with target share replacements for Evans’ absence.

Meanwhile, Winston (thumb) hasn’t resume throwing footballs in practice yet. He’s still not able to grip a football and has been throwing tennis balls instead. Winston is tentatively expected to play in Week 15. If he’s out, Ryan Griffin will be handed the reins to the offense. Justin Bailey

Note: Info as of Thursday. See our Injury Report for daily practice participation and game statuses up until kickoff.

Biggest Mismatch

Buccaneers Run Defense vs. Lions Run Game

With the league’s ninth-worst scoring defense (25.8 points per game allowed) and without Stafford, the Lions are now featuring Scarbrough, who had more practice squad employers (four) than NFL carries (zero) up until four weeks ago.

Now, the Lions are feeding Scarbrough 18.0 carries per game. With all due respect to Scarbrough, he’s topped 4.0 yards per carry just once in four games, caught 1-of-4 targets for five yards, and produced as many touchdowns (one) as lost fumbles. That he’s viewed as a bright spot by those who follow the team — as well as those who run it, apparently — illustrates the trying state of a Lions run game that ranks 28th in schedule-adjusted efficiency, per Football Outsiders’ DVOA.

The Lions possess quality run-blocking offensive lineman (Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Taylor Decker) but have a weak link on each side in left guard Joe Dahl (57.1 Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade) and right tackle Rock Wagner (53.1). Inline tight end Jesse James (53) has been a non-factor in that area, as well. This is bad news against a star-studded Bucs front that ranks No. 1 in run-defense DVOA.

Led by defensive tackle Vita Vea and linebacker Lavonte David, coordinator Todd Bowles’ unit is stuffing runs for no gain or a loss at a 30% clip while allowing opposing backs to muster just 3.18 yards per carry, figures that rank second-best league-wide, per Football Outsiders.

This season, the over has gone 10-3 in Bucs games and 8-5 in Lions games, but the Lions are unlikely to support third-string quarterback David Blough with a run game. Both teams also lost a top pass-catching weapon to injury (Evans, Jones), meaning sharp money is on those figures regressing to the mean: At the time of this writing, 69% of dollars wagered are on the total have gone toward the under despite 61% of betting tickets hitting the over (see live public betting data here). Chris Raybon

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Buccaneers -3.5
  • Projected Total: 46

Winston is one of the toughest quarterbacks to handicap simply due to his wide range of outcomes. He can look like an MVP candidate for a drive, a half or even a game, then an error-prone-disaster-on-the-verge-of-being-benched the next. This can be seen by the very fact he is tied for second in touchdown passes and has thrown the most interceptions on the season.

So how can we take advantage of this in a sneaky way?

My hypothesis is to avoid betting the spread altogether and look at the moneyline. The moneyline is typically derived from the spread, but when it comes to the Bucs, we should expect a wider range of outcomes. Therefore the strategy is to bet the Bucs on the moneyline when they’re an underdog and against them when they’re the favorites.

Testing this out in the Bet Labs database, it appears to be a winning strategy. Backing the Bucs on the moneyline for all of Winston’s starts as an underdog would’ve resulted in 16-31 (34%) +$343 won (ROI 6.9%). Fading Winston on the moneyline as a favorite by taking the other team on the moneyline has gone 9-11 (45%) +$210 won (ROI 10.5%).

It’s worth nibbling on the Lions +165 to win this game.

The under also has some value here. On paper, this matchup appears as a shootout as both passing offenses are above average while both passing defenses are below average. However, both teams lost key wide receivers this week in Evans and Jones. Both excel at stretching the field, so their absence will sap two explosive players from this game.

Neither team will effectively run the ball, but in a matchup that’s expected to be close, it could lure each to at least attempt to establish the run.

Looking at the market behavior, we see an odd split: 64% of the tickets are on the over while 71% of the money is on the under as of writing. Only 28 games in our Bet Labs database (since 2006) have seen 60% or more of the tickets on the over and 65% or more of the money on the under. The under has gone 16-11 (59%) in those games. Sean Koerner

PRO System Match

The Lions offense is struggling: They’ve been held to 20 or fewer points in three consecutive games.

Given their poor play, oddsmakers opened the Lions as home underdogs against the Buccaneers and a majority of spread tickets are coming in on Tampa Bay. But while this may seem like a good time to fade Detroit’s inconsistent offense, history suggests otherwise.

Teams that haven’t been able to put up a lot of points recently can be undervalued as teams to regress to the mean throughout the season. This is especially true against opponents that may not know their tendencies or personnel as well as their divisional rivals.

This creates an excellent first-half betting opportunity. Gamblers following this Pro System have gone 167-117-4 (59%) against the spread since 2005. A $100 bettor would have returned a profit of $3,610 following this strategy. John Ewing

Expert Pick

Stuckey: Lions +3.5

This comes down to a numbers play for me. I have this Bucs team as about a field goal better than this Lions team on a neutral field, so this line should be right around a pick. That means I would gladly take +3 with the home dog Lions and especially +3.5.

Neither team will likely have much success running the ball, so it will come down to which team can move the ball more efficiently through the air. Well, each team lost a key cog of their respective passing attacks last week as Detroit won’t have the services of Jones and Tampa lost Evans. For Tampa, that leaves pretty much just Chris Godwin while Detroit at least has a viable slot option in Danny Amendola to pair with Kenny Golladay on the outside.

I’d actually give the edge to the Lions here as Detroit has a more talented secondary with Darius Slay on the outside and Justin Coleman in the slot in addition to the emerging rookie Amani Oruwariye. Plus, this unit really only has to worry about one major threat in Godwin. The loss of Evans crushes the Tampa offense, which has arguably the best wide receiver duo in the league when Evans and Godwin are on the field at the same time.

Tampa obviously has the better overall quarterback, but Winston is dealing with a fractured right thumb in his throwing hand. For someone that is already prone to turnovers, this could turn into a disaster in the dome.

Blough was pretty horrid in his last start at Minnesota but that was his first career road start in a hostile environment against a solid defense. He showed me enough in his first start in Detroit on Thanksgiving against the Bears to trust him back at home.

After three straight wins, the Bucs are overvalued in the market right now relative to a Lions team that hasn’t won a game since October. But Detroit has played a relatively tough schedule over that span and has been in almost every single game this year; all 11 of their games against teams other than the Vikings have been decided by one possession.

Plus, I’m getting to fade Winston as a favorite, which is always the preference when betting on a game involving the former Florida State product. He can beat anybody just as easily as he can lose to anybody. Winston is just 6-13-1 ATS as a favorite in his career, failing to cover by an average margin of about a field goal per game. (Only Philip Rivers is less profitable as a favorite among active starting QBs).

Hold your nose and side with the value home dog.

Stuckey is 308-243-7 (55.9%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.