Bucs face their final road test of the season; while the Panthers look to rebound after recent controversy.
Keys to the Game:
The injury bug hit the Bucs hard this past Monday night in their narrow loss to the Atlanta Falcons. There were a total of 10 Buccaneers injured. First round draft pick, O.J. Howard, safety Justin Evans, Offensive Lineman, J.R. Sweezy and Linebacker Adarius Glanton were some of the most significant. All 4 were placed on season ending injured reserve this week. Tampa already has a depleted defense, now they are starting to lose more pieces on the offensive side of the ball.
The Bucs offense is going to have to find a way to power through all of these injuries. Long ball threat, DeSean Jackson is a question mark as well heading into this game. Carolina’s defense is one of the better units in the league, so scoring points is not going to be an easy task.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston showed a lot of promise and potential on Monday night.
If the Bucs hope to have any chance on Sunday they are going to need the same Jameis Winston to show up. Winston threw for almost 300 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also didn’t fumble the ball either. Winston did all of this with limited receiving options as well.
Last week Carolina’s defense forced three interceptions of Aaron Rodgers. Winston is going to have to play near flawless football this week if Tampa wants to get their first divisional win.
One area where the Bucs are going to have to tighten it up is in run defense. Tampa was gashed on the ground, giving up a total of 201 rushing yards on 35 carries. Good for almost six yards per carry. The task does not get any easier this week. Carolina has a three headed rushing attack consisting of veteran Jonathan Stewart, rookie Christian McCaffrey and Quarterback Cam Newton. All three of these guys can make plays in plenty of different ways. Stewart is the power rusher, McCaffrey is a threat to run and catch the ball out of the backfield and Cam will flat out run you over. He’s especially dangerous in the red zone and near the goal line.
The Bucs have been so frustratingly close the past couple weeks. They’ve lost their last three games by a combined total of 12 points. One loss in overtime and 2 by field goals. Interestingly enough Tampa has lost by the same score the past two weeks, 24-21. You have to feel for the players and the team. Is this the week that they finally put it all together and pull the upset?
As mentioned earlier, for that to happen there is a lot that needs to go right. Jameis has to play near perfect football, the defense has to slow down the rushing attack and the team as a whole must overcome all of their injuries.
That just seems like a lot to ask. Winston has been far from perfect this season and the defense has not been very good as of late. Carolina has a lot to play for this week. Including the possibility of a NFC South title and home playoff game. Panther’s owner, Jerry Richardson, has already announced that the team will go up for sale. There’s even been talk about the Panther’s possibly moving out of Carolina. All of that will just be background noise this week. Tampa will hang around, but they just have way too many obstacles to overcome. Cam and company take control late and the Bucs will suffer their second five game losing streak of the season.
Final Score: Panthers win 34-24
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