#476 Carolina Panthersvs.#475 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Written by Benjamin Hayes
When and Where: Monday, Oct. 10, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C., 8:30pmET
Line: Carolina -6
Tampa Bay and Carolina meet on a Monday night from Charlotte. Both NFC South teams are off to disappointing 1-3 starts, but for a team with such high expectations like the Panthers, that record is shocking. Last year’s Super Bowl runner-up is coming off a 48-33 road loss to Atlanta, while Tampa Bay fell at home to Denver, 27-7.
Denver has shut down a lot of teams this season and last year as well. That included a 21-20 win over Carolina on Sept. 8. But last Sunday, after Jameis Winston ran it in from seven yards out to tie the game at 7-7, Tampa Bay was outscored 20-0 in the rest of the game. What made it more disappointing was the defense, which allowed 22 first downs and 218 passing yards, despite knocking out starting quarterback Trevor Siemian due to a shoulder injury. Rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch came on and threw for 170 yards on 14 of 24 with one TD and no picks.
Winston struggled as a passer against one of the league’s top defenses, completing 17 of 35 for 179 yards with no passing TDs and two picks. Denver completely shut down the Bucs ground game, allowing just 72 rushing yards led by 28 on 15 carries from Charles Sims. Tampa Bay has now lost three straight after beating Atlanta on the road to start the season. To make matters worse, Tampa Bay also lost three players including Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy (calf), TE Brandon Myers (hip) and rookie DE Noah Spence (shoulder). They are already playing without DE Robert Ayres and running back Doug Martin. All are considered questionable, though Martin the not likely to play.
Last season, Carolina beat up on Tampa Bay by 14 (37-23) and by 28 (38-10). This season, the Panthers have struggled to find consistency on both ends of the field. In their loss to Atlanta, Pro Bowl QB Cam Newton suffered a concussion after taking a big hit from Falcons linebacker Deion Jones on a two-point conversion attempt. Newton was sacked eight times in the previous week against Minnesota and took some rough hits in the opener against Denver. Newton completed 14 of 25 for 165 yards and one TD with 30 yards rushing (to lead the team) before leaving the game. Derek Anderson came in and completed 17 of 23 for 172 yards with two TDs and two picks.
The big issue for Carolina has been defense as they don’t appear to be the same group as last season. They allowed Matt Ryan to throw for 503 yards and four TDs, including 12 for 300 yards to Julio Jones. That probably wouldn’t have happened had the Panthers held on to star cornerback Josh Norman. On the season, Carolina allows 347.8 yards per game (12th) and 257.5 passing yards per game (14th). They do allow 29.5 points per game and that ranks 28th in the NFL.
Tampa Bay is:
Tampa Bay was able to win on the road in Atlanta so they have the ability. Anderson is a turnover-machine and even though this is an important game for Carolina, so is the health of their superstar Newton. Winston will go after the Panthers’ young secondary and the extra day of rest should allow some of the injured players to return.
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Ben has been a sports writer for over 30 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for over 25 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13!