- Jeff Gold, ESPN Insider
If NBC can flex into games in the second half the year, then the NFL Network should be allowed to flex out of games too. Starting now. Tonight's Buccaneers-Panthers game doesn't exactly have too much appeal on the surface. Hooray for the spread.
I have to hand it to Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano. Despite his team losing every week, and the possibility of a mutiny in the locker room seemingly on the horizon at just about any moment, the guy keeps offering up some great quotes. Here are some of my recent favorites from Schiano:
"I am accustomed to being on the team that finds ways to win them."
"We'll win our share, don't worry."
Here's the problem with Schiano: He's not a winner. He was 68-67 at Rutgers (with an atrocious 28-48 Big East record) and he's 7-15 as the Bucs head coach. His team has lost 11 of its past 12 games. He doesn't get the benefit of the doubt. It's completely fine to be confident, but he purports himself as someone with a solid track record.
Fans have every right to be skeptical and to wonder if he's the right coach. Clearly, the way the Josh Freeman situation was handled wasn't ideal. The team's prized offseason acquisition, Darrelle Revis, has questioned the defensive approach. There are a lot of issues.
Carolina, meanwhile, may have finally turned the corner. This has been a team that has been popular among sharp handicappers, albeit with serious concerns over the wisdom of Ron Rivera, who often makes strategic errors over game management. That said, the Panthers have won two straight, and three of four, outscoring opponents 109-47 during that stretch.
According to ESPN PickCenter, Carolina, a roughly six-point favorite, is getting 74 percent of the public's backing. Doesn't seem as though the masses are too confident in Schiano.
Let's turn to some spread analysis from Jay Kornegay, the Las Vegas Hotel bookmaker, and some picks from our panel of wiseguys.
Spread: Opened Panthers minus-7; now Panthers minus-6
Total: Opened 40; now 40.5
ESPN Insider's panel of Vegas experts weighs in on how to bet the Carolina-Tampa Bay game Thursday night.