Thursday night NFL best bets - Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles


The Eagles have been tough on opposing QBs, but will they be able to slow down Tom Brady? Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
9:00 AM ET

Week 6 of the NFL season kicks off Thursday with the defending champion Buccaneers visiting the Eagles.

Tampa Bay (4-1) is coming off a 45-17 thrashing of the Dolphins, while Philadelphia (2-3) is coming off a three-point win at Carolina.

ESPN betting analysts Joe Fortenbaugh (22-8-1, 4-1 last week), Doug Kezirian (9-9-2, 2-1), Tyler Fulghum (6-9, 1-3) and Anita Marks (101-59, 19-11), sports betting deputy editor David Bearman (12-8-1, 1-3), Stats & Information's Seth Walder 23-24 (5-2), Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz (18-11, 2-5) and fantasy/betting analyst Eric Moody (20-11, 13-6) have teamed up to offer their best bets.

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook (as of Wednesday).

Thursday night NFL best bets - Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7, 52.5) at Philadelphia Eagles

Kezirian: I backed Miami last week, but part of the loss can be attributed to Jacoby Brissett's injury. The Dolphins attacked Tampa the proper way, and I believe Philly will do the same, especially because the Eagles have run the ball the fourth-fewest times in the league. The Bucs are decimated with injuries to their secondary and needed to sign a free agent like Richard Sherman. Tampa's offense is pretty loaded, and while I lean to Philly and the points, I would rather just bet the Eagles can score.

Pick: Eagles team total over 22.5 (-105)

Fortenbaugh: Philadelphia's two victories this season have come against a putrid Atlanta squad and an overrated Carolina outfit. Granted, the Birds deserve some credit for handling their business in those spots, but they've paid the price for stepping up in class, as the 49ers, Cowboys and Chiefs outscored Philly by a combined 38 points. As for the Buccaneers, Tampa was facing a letdown spot last week against the Dolphins, only to annihilate Brissett and company by 28 points. Tease the Bucs with the Chargers, who are facing a Baltimore franchise that is operating on a short week and has notched its four wins by an average of just 6.2 points per game.

Pick: Buccaneers -1 in 6-point teaser with Chargers +9

Walder: Mike Evans and Quez Watkins are on opposite ends of the receiving yards over expectation spectrum. Evans has the second-highest yardage expectation (469 yards) among all players this season based on the expected air yards and expected YAC, per NFL Next Gen Stats, on his targets. Evans has substantially underperformed that expectation, but I wouldn't expect an underperformance going forward. Since 2018, Evans has had at least a slightly positive completion percentage over expectation in every season.

Watkins, meanwhile, has overperformed his receiving yards expectation by 110 yards, second only to Ja'Marr Chase this season. The 2020 sixth-rounder is off to a nice start, but I'm willing to bet on him not being elite in yards over expectation going forward and that his current line may be a little inflated.

Pick: Evans over 67.5 receiving yards (-115), Watkins under 40.5 receiving yards (-120)

Marks: This game has barn-burner potential, but Tom Brady's thumb injury concerns me. Considering the Bucs' defense was bad to begin with and now will be without LB Lavonte David (ankle) and S Antoine Winfield Jr. (concussion), I like the Eagles' team total over 22.5.

Tampa has the league's No. 1 blitz rate, and Jalen Hurts has four TD passes while averaging nine yards per attempt against the blitz. DeVonta Smith has been Hurts' go-to receiver and has a solid share of red zone targets this season. The Bucs are 31st in passing TDs allowed to opposing wide receivers.

Dallas Goedert is on the COVID-19 list, so Zach Ertz is expected to start and should get the lion's share of snaps at tight end. Chris Godwin is the Bucs WR of choice for me this week. He is coming off an 11-target game and will face an Eagles defense that plays a ton of zone coverage, which opens up the 8-to-10 yard passing routes where Godwin will be found.

Pick: Eagles team total over 22.5 (-105), Brady over 1.5 rushing yards (-115), Hurts over 38.5 passing attempts (-120), Godwin over 65.5 receiving yards (-115), Godwin scores TD (+112), Smith over 5.5 receptions (-150), Smith scores TD (+135), Ertz over 4.5 receptions (-125)

Fulghum: Teams are throwing at an absurd rate against the Bucs. Brady and the offense put points up in bunches. The defensive line is anchored by stout run defenders like Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea. The secondary has played poorly and been affected by injuries. I like investing in the Philadelphia passing attack on Thursday night. No defense has allowed more receptions to wide receivers (91) than Tampa Bay.

Pick: Over 52.5, Hurts over 285.5 passing yards (-115), Kenneth Gainwell over 23.5 receiving yards (-110), Miles Sanders under 33.5 rushing yards (-115), Smith over 5.5 receptions (-150)

Moody: The Buccaneers have allowed the most passing yards per game (314.4) to opponents this season, but Hurts has thrown for over 285.5 yards in just two games this season. Tampa's defense has stifled mobile quarterbacks so far this season, limiting their rushing yards. The Bucs' front seven will force Hurts to beat them as a passer and not a runner. I don't believe he's up to the task.

On the other side, Brady has been phenomenal this season and that trend should continue against the Eagles. He is averaging 353.4 passing yards per game and has two games with 400 or more yards. The Eagles' defense has allowed the third-fewest passing yards per game this season (194.8), but they haven't faced a quarterback with the playing experience of Brady and his plethora of receiving playmakers. The GOAT is also on the precipice of another milestone. With four touchdown passes, Brady would become the first quarterback in NFL history to reach 600 for his career.

Looking at more props, Godwin has the most favorable receiver matchup against slot cornerback Avonte Maddox. Godwin is averaging 8.2 targets, 5.8 receptions and 73.2 receiving yards per game this season and an impressive 12.6 yards per reception.

Leonard Fournette has dominated the rushing attempts in the Buccaneers backfield, amassing 56 rushing attempts to Ronald Jones II's 26 over the last two games. Fournette has averaged 16 rushing attempts and 79 rushing yards per game over that span. The Buccaneers' offensive line should not have any trouble creating running lanes against the Eagles' front seven.

Finally, Gainwell has outperformed Sanders all season. He is only averaging 8.4 opportunities and 44.4 total yards, but he has played 43% of the offensive snaps this season. The matchup against the Buccaneers is the perfect climate for Gainwell to thrive. The Eagles are huge underdogs against Tampa Bay in what is expected to be a high-scoring game. Gainwell could see a lot of touches in this matchup as a runner and receiver out of the backfield.

Pick: Hurts under 285.5 passing yards (-115), Brady over 298.5 passing yards (-115), Brady over 2.5 passing TDs (-110), Godwin over 65.5 receiving yards (-115), Fournette over 12.5 rushing attempts (-135), Fournette over 63.5 rushing yards (-110), Gainwell over 41.5 rushing/receiving yards (-115)