Cincinnati Bengals vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12/18 @ 4:25 PM EST)
Spread: Bengals -3.5
Money Line: Bengals -195 / Buccaneers +170
Overview and Betting Info
The Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) will head to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers (6-7) in a game with playoff implications for both teams. The Bengals are tied with the Ravens atop the AFC North, while the Buccaneers lead the NFL South by one game. The Bucs lead the overall series 7-5, but they’ve lost the last two.
The Bengals are 10-3 against the spread this season and have now covered nine of their last ten games. They have gone over the total 4 times this season and have gone under in their last three games.
The Bucs are 3-9-1 versus the spread and have now failed to cover eight of their last ten games. They have gone over the total 3 times but have gone under in four of their last five games.
The Bengals are averaging 390.5 yards (5th) and 25.8 points per game. They average the 4th most pass yards through the air (368.1), thanks to the play of Joe Burrow. The quarterback is fifth in the NFL, with 3,685 yards, with 27 touchdowns. He’s been using his legs, too, as he has 234 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He’s been incredible despite injuries to all his receivers and an offensive line that struggled (3rd most sacks allowed in the NFL) in the first half of the season. While the offensive line is improving (six sacks over their last five games), the injuries continue to persist, with Tyler Boyd (655 yards, 4 TD) and receiving leader Tee Higgins (861 yards, 5 TD) both questionable for Saturday. The good news is that Ja’Marr Chase seems fully healthy, as he has 216 yards and a touchdown in his first two games back. We expect him to be the focal point of the passing attack again Saturday, but look for Trenton Irwin (53 yards, 1 TD last week) to make some big plays if Boyd and Higgins can’t go.
The run game is led by Joe Mixon, who has 701 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. He struggled in the first half behind a lousy offensive line before picking up some injuries. Things are changing now, as Mixon has 324 combined yards and two touchdowns in his last two complete games. He’s also been involved in the passing game with another 324 yards and two touchdowns through the air. When Mixon isn’t on the field, watch for Samaje Perine to do some damage (613 combined yards, 6 TD). The back has been crucial as Mixon has dealt with injuries and having both healthy will be a boost for a passing game that may be without Higgins and Boyd.
The Bengals’ defense allows 341 yards and 20.5 points per game, but they have struggled to make big plays. They have the third-fewest sacks (21) but have done an excellent job containing opposing offenses. Despite the lack of sacks, Sam Hubbard (6.5 sacks, 11 TFL) and Trey Hendrickson (6 sacks) have had no issues getting into the backfield. In the secondary, the Bengals are led by their talented safeties Von Bell (4 INT, 7 PD) and Jessie Bates (3 INT), who should give Brady fits on Sunday. Look out for linebacker Germain Pratt (83 tackles, 6 TFL), as he’s been making plays in crucial situations all season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs’ offense averages 348.7 yards and 17.2 points per game this season. They’ve struggled to score points all year and have been held to under 10 in four of their last five games. They are led by Tom Brady, who is fourth in the NFL with 3,585 yards to go with 17 touchdowns. He’s been struggling lately, averaging just 5.13 yards per attempt in his last three games. He does have a fully healthy receiving core, with Mike Evans leading the team with 805 yards and three touchdowns. He’s been less involved lately and has not found the endzone since October 2nd. Brady now favors Chris Godwin (702 yards, 2 TDs), as he has 25 catches in their last three games. The pair are joined by Julio Jones, who has been limited but had five receptions last week.
Leonard Fournette leads a rush attack that is last in the NFL with 72.9 yards per game. The veteran back leads the team with 524 yards and three touchdowns, adding another 380 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He’s missed some time with an injury, but the good news is the Bucs have gotten some solid play from backup Rachaad White. The Arizona State product has 612 combined yards and two touchdowns and has looked like the more effective rusher. White led the team in carries last week, which we think may continue on Sunday.
The Tampa Bay defense is allowing 341.7 yards and 19.5 points per game. They’ve been getting to the quarterback all season (38 sacks in 7th in NFL) but have failed to generate turnovers with just 12 for the year (29th in NFL). Vita Vea leads the team with 6.5 sacks to go with 7 tackles for loss, but he is listed as questionable after leaving last week with a calf injury. If he can’t go, the Bucs will still have Devin White (5.5 sacks, 8 TFL) and Carl Nassib (3.5 sacks, 6 TFL) to take over. In the secondary, Mike Edwards and Jamel Deal lead the team with two interceptions, but both are questionable for Sunday. We’ll also be tracking Anthoine Winfield Jr’s status, as he is having a fantastic year (3 sacks, 51 tackles, 1 INT) but is questionable to play on Sunday.
Free Pick: Bengals -3.5
We see the Bengals getting an easy win on Sunday, even if Higgins and Boyd are both out. Ja’Marr chase is one of the league’s best receivers and should have another big day against a Tampa defense that may be without three of its top players. We also love how the Bengal’s running backs have been playing, as both should also significantly boost their injured pass attack. The Bengal’s defense isn’t to the level of the Niners, but we think last week showed how broken this Tampa team is. It’s a tough place to play, but we believe the nice weather will allow the Bengals to put on a show on Sunday.We’re giving up the points to roll with the Bengals.