The Carolina Panthers hope to lock up a playoff berth in Week 16 when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The game will kickoff at 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 24 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Fans in local markets can watch the game on Fox.

Oddsmakers list the Panthers as 10-point favorites at home. The over/under is set at 46.5 points. Click here for a full list of the Week 16 betting odds and links to more game previews.

Panthers vs Buccaneers Betting Preview & Vegas Game Odds

With six wins in their last seven games, the Panthers are 10-4 and one win away from clinching a playoff spot. However, they are still hoping to finish atop the NFC South. Carolina is currently tied with New Orleans at 10-4. Unfortunately, the Panthers lost both games to the Saints this season, so they’ll need to finish the season a game better than New Orleans. That leaves Carolina with no margin for error if they want to steal the division away from the Saints.

Meanwhile, the Bucs have nothing left to play for this season. Tampa is 4-10 and losers of their last four games. Injuries have made it next to impossible for the Buccaneers to win games late in the season. However, the Bucs have still managed to keep games close in recent weeks despite not being able to get over the hump and win a game.

One game that wasn’t particularly close was Carolina’s 17-3 over Tampa Bay in Week 8. The Bucs actually out-gained the Panthers in that game. However, Tampa Bay was plagued by three turnovers that hindered their efforts.

NFL ATS Predictions & Free Betting Pick: Bucs +10

I like Carolina to win this game, but I don’t feel good about them covering the spread. The Bucs have proven in the last several weeks that they’re not going down without a fight. Meanwhile, the Panthers still aren’t the type of team to build a comfortable cushion. I’ll lean toward the Bucs because I can’t buy the Panthers winning by more than 10 points.

Only three of Carolina’s 10 wins this season have come by double digits. To be fair, one of those wins came against the Bucs in Tampa. But that doesn’t have me convinced that the Panthers will be able to win by a comfortable margin this week.

Click on the link for more free NFL betting predictions from our experts on staff.

Despite all the injuries, the Bucs have been a different team since Jameis Winston returned from a shoulder injury three weeks ago. When these two teams met earlier this year, he was still fighting through the pain. However, he returned three weeks ago after a month off and has looked like his old self. In his last three games, Winston is averaging 285 yards passing and has seven touchdowns with just two interceptions.

The caveat to Winston’s success throwing the ball is that much of it has come late in games when the Buccaneers were trailing. That means Tampa Bay is falling behind in the 1st half of games, making a win over the Panthers unlikely. But it also means that Winston is capable of leading the Bucs to touchdowns in the 2nd half of games that bring them back within striking distance. This has been a trend in Tampa’s games since Winston returned, which makes me think the Bucs will stay within 10 points.

I’m also a little concerned with how Carolina’s defense has played in recent weeks. The Panthers have been stout on that side of the ball for much of the year. But they’ve given up at least 21 points in each of the last five weeks. I’ve come to expect better from Carolina’s defense, but they’ve been a little vulnerable in recent weeks. With a healthy Winston leading the Bucs, that may not change this week.

I still expect the Panthers to win this game. Cam Newton has been exceptional lately and should make the plays he needs to for Carolina to win. But with Winston healthy, the Bucs will make the final score competitive, and so I can’t swallow 10 points in this game.