Bucs @ Panthers: Three best bets for Thursday night’s NFL showdown

We've hardly had time to catch our breath after Week 1!

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Total Points: Under 49.5 @ 20/23

It’s Week 2 already. The season is going to fly by.

If their first game was anything to judge by, it can’t go quickly enough for Tampa Bay. Jameis Winston’s taste for turnovers returned with a vengeance against the 49ers, costing his team the chance of a home win with two pick-sixes on three interceptions as they lost 31-17.

Divisional rivals Carolina also took an L in the opener to West Coast opposition, but that three-point loss to the Rams did give some reason for encouragement.

Well, Christian McCaffrey did anyway.

The third-year rusher staked his claim for the undisputed championship title of best back in the league with a stat-astic performance – 29 total touches, 209 yards and two touchdowns. Fantasy owners love him this season.

Elsewhere, there was less to be thrilled about. Curtis Samuel, Greg Olsen and DJ Moore combined for just 11 receptions and McCaffrey devoured Cam Newton’s usual rushing contribution too. Two fourth-quarter scores made the game look closer than it was.

All of which suggests we shouldn’t expect a shoot-out tonight, and the line of 49.5 points looks optimistic.

First Touchdown Scorer: Christian McCaffrey @ 7/2

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You can’t keep a good man down.

The 23-year-old had the pedigree coming into the league with his father, former Giants, 49ers and Broncos wide receiver Ed, collecting three rings in his playing career, but the younger McCaffrey has the talent to eclipse his old man’s reputation as a player.

Beating his Super Bowl title haul might be a tougher ask.

With Cam Newton seemingly set to rush a lot less than we’re used to, and McCaffrey a bundle of energy in the passing game (10 receptions v San Francisco for 81 yard) as well as on the ground, there’s a huge opportunity here for him to post gargantuan stat lines in 2019.

He’s already got one, and I wouldn’t rule out another multiple TD haul in this, and as the primary offensive weapon in the home side’s arsenal, he’s the stand-out First Touchdown option at 7/2.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS – AUGUST 29: Mike Evans #13 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up before a NFL preseason game at AT&T Stadium on August 29, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Winning Margin (4-Way) – Panthers to win by 1-13 pts

As always with Thursday night games, the road team is at a big disadvantage out of the gate. Considering their QB’s struggles on Sunday too, some might fancy a blow-out here. While the Panthers should win given the helping hand they’re getting from schedulers – they played at home on Sunday too – there are a few reasons to think they won’t run up the score.

For one, without the picks, their defence held the 49ers last week within range. Obviously Winston can meltdown again, but you’d expect him to be on a short leash now. Also, Miek Evans, his top receiver, is fully healthy after playing through an illness in Week 1.

Add in that second-year running back Ronald Jones looked better last week than at any time in his rookie season, and that the Panthers run defence did not impress against a Todd Gurley who has a lot of questions over his health last week, and the Bucs should be able to stay in this game for the most part.

And just in general,, the NFC South is a very competitive division where teams tend to play each other close, whatever their form week-to-week.

The Panthers by fewer than two touchdowns makes a lot of sense here.

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What do you think?