The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5 SU, 3-6-1 ATS) look to widen their lead atop the NFC South standings and win three in a row for the first time this season when they visit the slumping Cleveland Browns (3-7, 4-6) on Sunday in NFL Week 12 action.
The Buccaneers enjoyed a bye last week after escaping their Week 10 clash with Seattle in Munich with a 21-16 win. The Browns return after getting outpaced in last week’s 31-23 loss to Buffalo that marked their sixth defeat in seven outings.
Buccaneers vs Browns Opening Odds
The Buccaneers have improved slightly to 3.5-point favorites since opening as 3-point chalk, while the total has dipped to 43 since opening at 45.5. Sunday’s matchup marks the first meeting between these teams since 2018 and the Buccaneers’ first visit to Cleveland in over eight years. Tampa Bay has dominated in recent head-to-head clashes, taking five of six from the Browns, capped by a 26-23 home win four years ago.
Low scoring has been a consistent theme when these teams meet, with the total reaching 40 just once in their past five clashes, powering an unblemished 5-0 run for the UNDER. Points have come at a particular premium for the Browns, who have averaged just 13.8 points per game in their past five tilts with the Bucs. Accordingly, Tampa Bay enjoys a steady 4-1 run against the spread.
Brady Returning to Vintage Form
The Buccaneers once again stumbled out of the gate in their Week 10 date with Seattle but were fortunate not to face consequences. The Bucs were held off the scoresheet in the first quarter for the third time in six games and have now scored an average of just 2.8 first-quarter points over their last eight games.
However, with the defense once again standing tall, the Buccaneers managed to shut down the Seahawks while racking up a 14-0 lead by halftime and did just enough to halt a Seattle fourth-quarter rally that produced two scores. Overall, the Bucs have limited opponents to just 244.5 total yards per game during their 2-0 run. Tampa Bay has been particularly effective against the rush, allowing just two total scoring runs over the past five games.
With his personal problems now behind him, Tom Brady has steadily returned to vintage form. Brady connected on two scoring passes for just the second time this season in the team’s win over Seattle, and in addition to remaining among the passing leaders with a 258-yard performance, he also set a season high by completing 75.9 percent of his pass attempts.
The week off has also helped this team recover from a rash of injuries, leaving rusher Leonard Fournette as the lone major concern on offense after he suffered a hip injury against the Seahawks.
Browns’ Defensive Woes Continue
The Browns once again struggled on both sides of the ball in last weekend’s loss to the Bills. After seizing an early lead, they quickly folded, surrendering 25 unanswered points to seal their fate. With the 31-23 loss, the Browns have now allowed an average of 35 points during their 0-2 run and have seen opponents score 30 or more points five times in their past nine outings.
While the Dawg Pound eagerly awaits the arrival of Deshaun Watson next weekend, it is tough to hang the squad’s recent woes on Jacoby Brissett. The journeyman pivot approached career highs last weekend with 324 passing yards and three touchdowns and has now tossed for five scores and run for one TD while avoiding the pick over the past three games.
In fact, things could have gone a lot worse last weekend for the Browns, who managed to force the Bills to settle for field goals on six occasions, including a pair of drives into the Cleveland red zone. That marks an improvement after they were lit up for five touchdowns in a 39-17 loss to Miami two weeks ago.
Buccaneers: Keys to Win
With Tom Brady flashing old form and looking likely to enjoy a full complement of starting receivers, the Bucs could be poised to put on an air show on the shores of Lake Erie. However, Brady and the Buccaneers must avoid underestimating a Browns defense that showed signs of turning the corner in their recent win over Cincinnati and a narrow loss to Baltimore.
Browns: Keys to Win
The Browns enjoyed moderate success trying to contain an injury-hobbled Josh Allen in last week’s loss to Buffalo but will enjoy no health advantage this time around. Accordingly, the Browns defense must maintain constant pressure on the immobile Brady, and find a way to spark a ground game that has produced just one score in the past three outings.
NFL Computer Pick: Buccaneers -3.5
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