The Carolina Panthers are on a three-game losing streak and heading to Tampa. They currently rank second in the NFC South while the Buccaneers are currently fourth. At 4-7, the Bucs aren’t quite out of the playoff picture yet. Can they play spoiler over their NFC South rival and split the season series?
Date and Time: December 2nd, 1pm EST
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Line: Buccaneers +4, O/U 54.5
Last Matchup: Panthers def Bucs 42-28
The first game between the Panthers and Bucs wasn’t really as close as the final score indicated. Running back Christian McCaffrey accounted for two touchdowns in the first half when the Panthers jumped out to a 35-7 lead. The Bucs made it a game after reeling off 21 unanswered points over the next 16 minutes of game time. A Curtis Samuel touchdown with 9:04 left in the fourth made it 42-28 and a Panthers victory in round one.
Injuries Taking Their Toll
Almost every team is dealing with injuries of some sort this late into the season. However, the Bucs, who were already thin defensively, are hurting even more. Eight players on the final injury report are listed as out, questionable, or doubtful for Sunday’s game. Four of those are in the secondary. Cornerbacks Carlton Davis and M.J Stewart are officially out while safety Justin Evans and corner Brent Grimes are doubtful.
Playoffs?!? Yes, if #Bucs get head to head win over #Panthers Sunday, they're in the playoff conversation for at least another week. Details: https://t.co/7XuEXlpQbl
— FL Football Insiders (@Real_FFI) November 30, 2018
Linebacker Lavonte David is also questionable for Sunday. All these injuries are even more concerning considering how foolish Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner made the defense looked. Samual had a 33-yard score on a double reverse in which the Bucs made numerous missed tackles. McCaffrey also juked and even leaped over defenders with ease. If the Bucs are missing four starters on the defensive side I’m scared of what Cam Newton and company will do this time around.
When the Bucs traveled to Bank of America Stadium a month ago, Ryan Fitzpatrick was still the starting quarterback. This time Jameis Winston has returned. In his first start since Cincinnati, Winston had a successful game against the 49ers. He completed 76 percent of his passes for 312 yards, two touchdowns and, most importantly, no turnovers. Carolina has a better defense than the 49ers, but Winston coming in and performing well is a good sign for the Bucs.
With DeSean Jackson out, that obviously means more targets for Mike Evans, Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin, but, could Justin Watson also get in the mix?https://t.co/VDAq9nt15T
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) November 30, 2018
James Bradberry shut down Mike Evans last game, one catch on 10 targets, so Winston could look elsewhere in the passing game. O.J Howard had two touchdowns last time but he has since been sent to the IR. Luckily Winston has great chemistry with other tight end Cameron Brate. If the offense can take care of the football and keep Newton off the field, this game could get interesting.
Prediction: Panthers def. Buccaneers 31-17
Despite holding the 49ers to just nine points, I do not trust this defense, especially against the Panthers. Turner had the perfect game plan last time out and I don’t expect that to change. A banged up defense makes matters even worse for the Bucs.
Winston needs to string together a lot more good games to convince the fans and front office that he’s the guy for the future. The Panthers might not be the right opponent for that. Over his career, Winston is 2-4 against Carolina with five touchdowns, nine interceptions and five fumbles. The Panthers are a rangy, opportunistic bunch and I expect them to get after Winston and rattle him until he cracks.
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