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13 September 2019 01:48

And, again, we have one of Thursday night’s defenses playing better Sunday than the final score suggested.

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Want even more betting news? Sign up for VSiN's free daily newsletter Football bettors must acknowledge and account for cheap points. That's an important theme entering Thursday night's NFC South battle between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers (NFL Network, 8:20 p.m.). Both teams played in games last Sunday that featured many cheapies. Tampa Bay's 31-17 home loss to San Francisco featured three interception returns for touchdowns.

If you didn't watch, any perceptions drawn from seeing that 31-17 score will mislead from what was actually more like a 17-10 Niners grinder. Believe it or not, Tampa Bay won total yardage 295-256, yards-per-play 4.5 to 4.3, and third-down conversions 45 to 36 percent. Very good defensive numbers all things considered. But, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston threw three interceptions, two of which came all the way back. Bottom line: Tampa Bay's defense played better than casual followers were thinking. It's better to draw conclusions from game stats than final scores. Carolina's 30-27 home loss to the Los Angeles Rams didn't feature any defensive scores. But, each offense had a very cheap TD drive off field position. Carolina cashed in a 5-yard drive, the Rams a 10-yard drive. Take those out, and it's a 23-20 game that stays Under 49.5 rather than the perceived shootout. And, again, we have one of Thursday night's defenses playing better Sunday than the final score suggested. Carolina held the explosive Rams attack to 349 yards, 4.8 yards-per-carry, and 183 passing yards. Los Angeles didn't break through for a long TD drive until 2:51 remained in the third quarter. Bottom line: Carolina's defense played better than the final score suggested, and the Panthers probably would have sprung the outright upset of the defending NFC champs if they hadn't lost the turnover category 3-1. Sharps who focus on computer modeling understand game stats, and adjust for cheap points. That's part of why the opening Over/Under of 51 in Thursday's matchup dropped to 50 or 49.5 earlier in the week. Weather forecasts could influence additional line moves between now and kickoff. What stats should new bettors focus on when studying box scores? Yards-per-play (now readily available on nfl.com or espn.com) is respected by many sharps because it does so much heavy analytical lifting. (now readily available on nfl.com or espn.com) is respected by many sharps because it does so much heavy analytical lifting. You'll be surprised how much you learn just by logging this data from every game. Total yardage, though it is best to de-emphasize what happens on garbage-time drives., though it is best to de-emphasize what happens on garbage-time drives. Third-down conversions.. Modern football is all about "staying ahead of the chains." This will keep you focused on what head coaches and coordinators are prioritizing. Length of scoring drives. Superior offenses will go the distance from 60 yards out or more on a regular basis. Struggling offenses (particularly early in a season) may have trouble doing that twice per game. All of those categories are important for evaluating offensive and defensive skill sets. You can determine your own definition of "cheap" points from drive charts. Smart bettors won't give offenses credit for non-offensive scores, or too much credit for field-position pay dirt. And, they won't blame defenses for offensive screwups. TAMPA — Bucs rookie inside linebacker Devin White left Thursday night's game in the first quarter with an apparent right leg injury. White, the highly-touted first-round pick who was making his second NFL start on Thursday, exited after the Bucs' sixth defensive play of the night. He was in on the tackle on Christian McCaffrey's six-yard gain up the middle and remained on the ground for several moments. He was attended to by team trainers and was able to walk off the field under his own power but was walking gingerly favoring his right leg. As the Bucs retreated to the locker room for a lightning delay shortly after his exit, White was seen jogging off the field with his teammates with no obvious limp. White played his first game last week despiting dealing with tonsillitis. Contact Eduardo A. Encina at [email protected] Follow @EddieInTheYard.