Last month, when the National Football League kicked off their 2022 season, two teams that were among the favorites to win Super Bowl LVII are the participants tonight in the league’s Thursday Night Football primetime telecast on Prime Video.
Neither of them are among the favorites to win it all now.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Baltimore Ravens tonight and while the Buccaneers problems are well publicized, they lost last week to a squad some contend is the worst in football, the Carolina Panthers, the Ravens have also been underachieving. Still, and this may surprise some casual observers, both the Buccaneers and Ravens have a share of first place in their respective divisions.
The Tampa Bay problems are more illuminated by two factors; Tom Brady looks like age may have caught up to the 45-year-old signal caller and Todd Bowles appears to have a boatload of problems negotiating his first season as the Buccaneers head coach.
The Ravens disappointing campaign is less explainable.
John Harbaugh remains one of the league’s most respected head coaches and Lamar Jackson has not been beset by either age or injury. Somehow, the Ravens have lost three of their seven games straight-up and have only beaten the point spread twice this season … and that includes not any point spread wins since their third week victory over the New England Patriots.
The Buccaneers record against the point spread is no better. They have lost the money five straight weeks for their backers without a point spread conquest since their second week triumph over the highly suspect New Orleans Saints.
So, panic time in Baltimore and Tampa?
The two teams in action tonight play out of the two weakest divisions in football based on results. Through the first seven weeks, no team has a winning record in the NFC South where the Buccaneers are grouped with the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints. Their three wins on the season has Tom Brady’s team tied for first place with the Falcons in a year in which for the first time in his career Brady has a losing record this far into a regular season.
In the AFC North, where the Ravens are grouped with the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, Baltimore’s four wins has them in a tie for the top spot in the division with the defending AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals.
Okay, how do all these factors shake out to point to a winner tonight?
The opening line on this game had the visiting Ravens favored by three points, and the public agreed while more than 70% of the wagers on this game are backing Harbaugh’s team.
The current line has the home team, Brady’s, favored by 2 points.
Do you know how much ‘smart money’ has to be on the Buccaneers to move a line five points against 70% public action?
Me neither … but I suspect it is a lot.
You can see their thinking.
Brady off an embarrassing loss in Carolina where his team was favored by two touchdowns and lost by nearly three touchdowns, 21-3. And, for the Ravens to win tonight they would have to pull their record to two games better than the Buccaneers. That is, a Baltimore victory ends the night with a 5-3 record for Baltimore while dropping Tampa Bay’s season win/loss mark to 3-5.
Seems much more likely that these two teams would end tonight both with four wins and four losses.
So, easy, right? Take the Bucs and laugh all the way to the bank.
But, I’ve got a problem with that scenario.
Brady has tormented opponents for so long that no matter what his team’s record or recent results might indicate, no team is not going to be inspired to beat him when given the chance. And tonight, looks like a perfect chance for a Ravens team that still seems more in sync than what could be the bottom dropping out for Bowles and his tenure as Tampa Bay’s head coach.
What does that leave us with?
No need to subscribe to Prime to watch this one. We’ll let this matchup go bye without a vested interest in the result.