Along with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the other winless team in the NFL. Starting with a week 1 loss as time expired to the Jets; the Bucs have also lost to the Saints, Patriots, Cardinals, Eagles, and most recently the Atlanta Falcons.
It’s not like Tampa Bay is losing badly since four of the teams six losses have come by under 10 points, and 3 of them have come by under 3 points. A few plays here and there, and the Bucs are a .500 football team.
Josh Freeman is long gone, and rookie Mike Glennon has been the teams starting quarterback the last 3 games. To make matters worse for the winless Bucs, star running back Doug Martin could miss the rest of the season with a torn labrum.
The Buccaneers opponent this week is the streaking Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton who have bounced back from a 1-3 start and are attempting to move over the .500 mark for the first time in 5 seasons.
While Mike Glennon hasn’t been as bad as Josh Freeman was, there’s still plenty of room of improvement. Glennon is completing 58.5 percent of his passes and has thrown 5 touchdowns to 3 interceptions, not terrible for someone who’s only played 3 games in the NFL. As you would expect from an 0-6 team, Tampa Bay is 29th in the league in passing yards, and 20th in the rushing game. That’s expected to take a severe hit with Doug Martin out indefinitely. Mike James is going to be the starting running back in this game. Despite what’s gone on with the Buccaneers’ offense though, there are still plenty of weapons at their disposal including Vincent Jackson, and Mike Williams.
The Carolina Panther’s offense has been either really really good, or not so good. They’ve scored over 30 points 3 times, and under 7 points twice. But it’s looking like this team has finally turned the corner with convincing wins the last 2 weeks over the Vikings and the Rams. Cam Newton is quietly having a very solid season with 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He’s completing 63.5 percent of his passes and has a 95 rating for the season. Carolina’s rushing attack ranks 7th in the NFL with Newton and DeAngelo Williams forming a nice dual threat. In the receiving game, Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and Greg Olsen all have the potential to put up huge number although Carolina’s passing attack ranks 28th in the league.
Panthers – Not having Doug Martin is a killer, and Carolina’s offense is clicking right now.
The strength of the 2013 Carolina Panthers is DEFENSE. The Panthers have allowed the fewest yards in the NFL ranking in the top 5 in the NFL in both opponents passing and rushing yards, and are allowing only 13.8 points per game. The Panthers also have a +5 turnover ratio which is tied for 4th best in the league. Star Lotulelei is finally coming into his own at defensive tackle, and Luke Kuechly is the best middle linebacker in the NFL. On the edge, Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy each have four sacks and 5th year safety Mike Mitchell has been a ball hawk with 3 interceptions on the season.
As much as the Buccaneers offense has struggled, the defense has been much better. Tampa has the league’s 5th best run defense and has a middle of the pack pass defense. Gerald McCoy, Mark Barron, and Darrelle Revis all have star potential. After keeping it together for the first 4 games, the Bucs defense is really starting to crack and has given up 62 points over the past 2 weeks.
Panthers – Statistically, the Carliona Panthers have the number 1 total defense in the NFL believe it or not. Ron Rivera is really rubbing some ’85 Bears magic into this D.
Kicker: Graham Gano vs. Ryan Lindell
Punter: Brad Nortman vs. Michael Loenen
Return Man: Ted Ginn Jr. vs. Eric Page
In the kicking game, 26-year-old Graham Gano hasn’t missed all year, and has made 3 kicks of over 50 yards. Thirty-six year old Ryan Lindell has missed twice on the season, including 2 from under 50 yards.
In the punting game, Brad Nortman and Michael Loenen each have 3 touch-backs, but Nortman punt at an average of 5 yards farther than Loenen does.
In the return game, the one thing Ted Ginn Jr. can do well is return kicks. Other than that, he’s pretty much useless. For Tampa, Eric Page has been highly impressive returning kicks and punts. Page has a 40-yard kick return, and a 33-yard punt return this season. Like Ginn Jr., Page can take it back on any play.
Panthers – Carolina has the more consistent kicker, and the punter with the stronger leg. The return game is essentially even.
Although playing on the road on a Thursday night is not easy, the Carolina Panthers are one of the hottest teams in the league. Not having Doug Martin is huge for the Bucs.
Panthers 28 Bucs 10