PANTHERS (3-3) at BUCCANEERS (0-6)
Line: CAR by 6
Cote’s pick: CAR 24-16
TV: 8:25 p.m. Thursday, NFL Network
Maybe you note that the Buccaneers are winless and rely on the law of averages, or maybe you ride the fact that Tampa swept this NFC South series last season and history will repeat. Otherwise, the only people who like Tampa in this game are folks wearing a fake eyepatch and pewter face-paint and carrying a toy pirate’s sword. Bucs offer up a weak offense now missing top RB Doug Martin to a surprisingly stout Carolina defense. And Tee Bees’ D will have trouble with a hot Cam Newton, who in his past two games is 35 for 43 for 446 yards, four TDs and zero picks. Caveat: Three of Tampa’s losses have been by six combined points, and the sheer fear of embarrassment on a national stage gives the Bucs a medium home upset shot here. But Cam’s Cats are still the safer play.