Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) at Carolina Panthers (1-3)
Monday, October 10, 2016, 8:30 P.M. ET
Bank Of America Stadium (73,338)
Network Television: ESPN
Play-By-Play: Sean McDonough Analysts: Jon Gruden Sideline: Lisa Salters
Bucs Radio: US 103.5, Flagship Station (103.5 FM, 620 AM & 95.3 FM)
Play-By-Play: Gene Deckerhoff Analyst: Dave Moore Sideline: T.J. Rives
Last Game: Tampa Bay Lost vs. Denver, 27-7; Carolina Lost at Atlanta, 48-33

The Buccaneers travel to Carolina Monday night to face the defending NFC Champions, but the title comes with an asterisk next to it.

Already without Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman (signed with Washington in the offseason) and running back Jonathan Stewart (hamstring), the Panthers (1-3) are now down MVP quarterback Cam Newton, who sustained a concussion in last week’s loss in Atlanta. Enter Derek Anderson ­– a 12-year veteran who has only started two games for the Panthers since 2011, and won both against the Bucs in 2014.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, will (more than likely) be without multiple key players as well, including defensive tackles Gerald McCoy (calf) and Clinton McDonald (hamstring), defensive ends Robert Ayers (ankle) and Noah Spence (shoulder) and running backs Doug Martin (hamstring) and Charles Sims (knee), all listed as doubtful. Head coach Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith have emphasized the “next man up” mentality when addressing the Bucs’ injury misfortunes.

For the Tampa Bay to pull off a much-needed, nationally televised divisional road victory heading into its bye, it will likely need to follow the Falcons’ blueprint, particularly on offense. If all goes as planned, Mike Evans and company will have big nights in Primetime, provided turnovers are kept to a minimum and Winston and the Bucs offense can sustain drives.

PewterReport.com Publisher & Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
I should probably pick the Panthers. Derek Anderson is a really good backup quarterback, who is capable of winning games in the NFL. He swept the Bucs twice in 2014, and Tampa Bay still hasn’t shown it can beat backup-caliber QBs or rookie quarterbacks over the last decade. Anderson has receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Philly Brown, and tight end Greg Olsen at his disposal against a shaky Bucs secondary where the safety positions are the weak link. If defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald along with defensive end Noah Spence don’t play due to injury, there may not be much of a pass rush with just Will Gholston, who may be forced to move inside, and defensive end Howard Jones. Giving Anderson all day to find open receivers and pick apart the Bucs secondary won’t help Tampa Bay’s chances – even if Carolina doesn’t have much of a running game without Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart.

Jameis Winston needs to rise to the occasion, play turnover-free football and exploit the Panthers’ secondary, which is weaker than the Bucs, on Monday Night Football. While Anderson has Benjamin, Brown and Olsen to throw to, Winston has wide receivers Mike Evans, Adam Humphries and Vincent Jackson, and tight end Cameron Brate on his side. That’s enough for the Bucs to light up the scoreboard. Look for Humphries, who played at nearby Clemson, to play inspired football, and for Evans to take advantage of Carolina’s rookie-laden cornerback position. Winston needs to take over this game and out-duel Anderson for the win, as the Bucs will likely have to rely on Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber to step in for the ailing Doug Martin and Charles Sims to provide some balance on offense.

This game will come down to three things: the turnover battle, the winner of the QB duel, and also the winner of the middle linebacker duel. This game features two of the best middle linebackers in Carolina’s Luke Kuechly and Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander. Both are capable of taking games over. The one who steps up as the bigger playmaker on Monday night will greatly increase his team’s chances of winning. Although Kuechly is the better and more experienced Mike linebacker, I’m inclined to pick Alexander in this one. He’s been playing so well this season and the national stage could be Alexander’s coming out party for the rest of the league.

History suggests all of this is wishful thinking, and that I should pick the Panthers, but the Bucs need to change course eventually if they are to turn their franchise’s fortunes around. What better time and place than on Monday Night Football in Carolina? With a 1-3 record, it’s now or never for the Bucs’ 2016 season.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Buccaneers win 31-27
Reynolds’ Pick To Click: WR Mike Evans

PewterReport.com Editor in Chief & Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
No Cam Newton might make the task a little easier for the Buccaneers, but it guarantees nothing. The long list of backups who have had their way with Tampa Bay over the years, including this week’s Panthers starter Derek Anderson, is a long one.

I do believe Jameis Winston has a bounce-back type of game as Carolina’s secondary is unimpressive. Winston all week talked about “protecting the football” and I believe he will do a much better job of that this week, but I am not sure it is enough. While I like the idea of Jacquizz Rodgers getting the starting nod, there is a reason he was a complimentary back himself in Atlanta, and a reason he was a free agent when the Bucs claimed him after the preseason. I can’t remember a recent Bucs team that has been hit with so many key injuries this early in the season, an if the Bucs were a little healthier I would take Tampa Bay in an upset.

I expect a back-and-forth game, with a handful of momentum changes throughout, even with the Bucs leading late, but with Carolina being at home, and despite their own injury situation, they have a slight edge over the Buccaneers and will put up a late score to take a close win.

The Buccaneers can win this game, but a more experienced team, with a staff that has been together longer, will be the difference.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Panthers win 28-24
Cook’s Pick To Click: QB Jameis Winston

PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Eric Horchy
The battle of attrition will be on in Charlotte Monday night.

Bucs and Panthers players are dropping off at an alarming rate and both franchises will field teams that look quite different from what they ran out for Week 1.

Revealed Saturday afternoon, the most impactful case of absenteeism will be Carolina quarterback and 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton. As Bucs fans will attest, this guarantees nothing. Newton sat out both games in 2014 and Tampa Bay failed to take advantage of both opportunities. The Bucs were victimized by a Derek Anderson-led offense on both occasions.

Tampa Bay not only gets to face Anderson again Monday, it won’t have to deal with running back Jonathan Stewart, either.

Third time’s a charm, right?

Maybe. But then there’s that whole situation with the Bucs’ decimated defensive front to factor in, as well. Defensive end Robert Ayers Jr – doubtful. Starting defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald – both doubtful.

Week 5 is a bit early to be slapping “must-win” labels on games, but these two 1-3 teams are racing toward that territory.

At full strength, this game goes to Carolina all day, every day. Until the Bucs prove all their talent and potential can translate into wins, that doesn’t change. But that’s not the case Monday and it benefits Tampa Bay, even in the absence of key defenders and running backs Doug Martin and Charles Sims III.

This is an opportunity for quarterback Jameis Winston to not only turn around a disappointing season, but to show a nationally televised audience that he is, in fact, a real-deal quarterback.

Even with the limitations along the defensive line, the Bucs manage to keep Carolina from stringing together scores and running away. Winston and Tampa Bay also succeed in protecting the football against a defense that’s recorded one over the past two games.

This feels like a big-time reach because it is, but the Bucs play a somewhat low-scoring game in Carolina and pull off the first signature win of head coach Dirk Koetter’s tenure in Tampa Bay.

Horchy’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 23-19
Horchy’s Pick To Click: QB Jameis Winston

PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Zach Shapiro
If Jameis Winston can avoid throwing interceptions, the matchup for the Bucs offense seems favorable Monday night. For all its issues turning the ball over, the offense has had success through the air this year and Carolina’s secondary hasn’t found its footing – evidenced by last Sunday’s 503-yard performance by Atlanta. If Julio Jones can go for 300 against a veteran cornerback, how much damage could Mike Evans do to a third-round rookie who’s making his first start? Advantage Bucs.

The running game, however, presents a different dynamic. Without Doug Martin, Tampa Bay has been one-dimensional and things look even more uncertain this Monday. Charles Sims, who’s averaged 2.9 yards a carry the last two weeks, could be out with a hamstring, leaving Jacquizz Rodgers to start. What’s more, the Panthers have one of the best front sevens in the NFL, a unit led by All-Pro LB Luke Kuechly behind a stout D-Line. For Carolina to get its season back on track, Kuechly, defensive tackle Kawann Short and crew will need to step up, and they’ve proven they can set the tone on any given Sunday (or Monday).

It’s hard to view the Panthers as the defending NFC Champions when they’re without Cam Newton, Josh Norman and Jonathan Stewart – but they still have the experience, I believe, to beat a reeling Bucs team. Anderson has defeated the Bucs twice, and Tampa Bay will again rely on an inexperienced D-Line to bring pressure and keep him from standing clean in the pocket. Without Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers, Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David will need to match the play of Carolina’s LB unit for the Bucs defense to have success.

Tampa Bay of course has a chance – and what a win this would be, considering the Bucs last Monday Night game in Carolina set off an eight-year playoff drought and revolving door at head coach – but the team hasn’t proven this year that it can avoid costly turnovers and recover on defense. Until then, I’ll take the three-time division champions.

Shapiro’s Score Prediction: Panthers win 24-20
Shapiro’s Pick To Click: WR Mike Evans

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About the Author: Zach Shapiro

Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders. Contact him at: [email protected]
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5 years ago

Disagree with the predictions because it’s based on somehow we have a pass rush and a creative Defensive Coordinator, an Offensive Coordinatoer/Head Coach who will help Winston by calling passing plays to take advantage of his strength’s not his weaknesses. Coach Koetter can’t call a conservative game from the get go and only open it up when we are behind. Obviously this is a must win and if we don’t get it then start playing players who will be here in 2017. We have several older players who aren’t in the plan in my opinion if we lose this game.… Read more »

5 years ago

Will be shocked if win this game. The season is effectively over in any case. Atlanta is torching Denver and will likely be 4-1. The truth is this team is closer to getting a top 5 pick in the draft than it is making the playoffs. We may want to use a second round pick on a QB. JW looks more like Josh Freeman than Ben Rothlisburger. We are long way from being competitive.

5 years ago

To win they have to stop turning it over, find a run game somehow with either Rodgers or Barber,find a pass rush with a D line made up of all back ups basically.

As a Bucs fan I want to see this badly. Given the play thus far I just don’t see that happening with any of those 3 things.

I hope as usual I’m wrong! This is huge game because with the bye coming and schedule getting easier this is likely the game the decides if we have any chance at all of making a run.

Go Bucs!

5 years ago

Bucnut Giving up on Winston when the team is sucking and no run game doesn’t make sense to me.

Yes, he needs to play better but let’s not forget he’s in his second year.

Go look at some of the stellar qbs in this leagues second year and then you might gain some perspective.

5 years ago

See the defeatist attitude here Naples? That was my point. These folks are true Bucs fans, but, like me. they have been disappointed so many times they rarely are willing elevate their emotions so high that when we lose again the fall is so steep. Me, I always think there’s a way to victory. Here are the Scubog keys to avoid defeat. 1.) Don’t turn the ball over. 2.) Take the ball away. 3.) Open up the offense to score maximum points because our Defense is so weakened and hasn’t stopped anyone yet. 4.) Stop the big plays that have… Read more »

Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Sorry Scu, thats’s just to many things going right for the Buc’s to win. Wishing and actually doing are 2 very different things. I just hope they don’t get blown out and put forth a solid effort.

5 years ago

Most likely to be a lot of points scored in this one … could easily top 80 points combined. No defenses, especially with so many out on Bucs side, no running game from either team so it’s going to be a boat load of pass attempts. Whoever wins the turnover battle is likely to prevail.

I pick the Bucs to win, as Jameis is currently playing well every other game, and this is another odd-numbered game. Bucs 41-CAR 38.

5 years ago

Even with all their injuries, the Panthers are still a better team than our Bucs. Their front 7 is still a problem and our OL has to elevate their game tonight. Winston needs to be turnover free and check it down when it’s available. Somehow our Defense has to find a way to not let yet another backup QB destroy us. It’s embarrassing at this point. And will Dirk finally switch up the tempo and not be so predictable on offense? He’s waited too long to get into No-Huddle or to switch up his tactics this season. It’s maddening.

5 years ago

Defensively we are a mess…yes the Panthers are too, but they are at least well coached. I hope I am wrong, but until I see otherwise I don’t see how I could pick the Buccaneers.