The staff shares its thoughts on the upcoming Bucs game and pick who we think we win, including a score prediction and a pick-to-click – a Tampa Bay player we think will play really well. Let us know you thoughts and add your prediction in the comment section.

T.J. RIVES Publisher / Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds

I would pick the Bucs if this game were at Raymond James Stadium, but Tampa Bay seems to struggle on the road at Carolina, and I suspect the Bucs will do just that on Thursday night. A 0-2 start isn’t ideal for Tampa Bay, but unless the Bucs bring their “A” game to Carolina and the Panthers aren’t on top of their game, I can’t see them winning on the road on a short week.

Quarterback Cam Newton and running back Christian McCaffrey are a potent one-two punch for the Bucs as both can hurt Tampa Bay through the air or on the ground. The Panthers can hurt the Bucs with both a power running game and misdirection that can stress Tampa Bay’s defense horizontally.

But where the Bucs have to be concerned is with the Panthers’ defense. Up front, Carolina couldn’t get to Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff last week, so the Panthers defensive line will be itching to get to Jameis Winston, especially former Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Left tackle Donovan Smith has struggled against Carolina defensive end Mario Addison, who has 5.5 sacks in the last four games against Tampa Bay, and Smith will have a new challenge this year in speed rusher Brian Burns, the Panthers’ first-round pick.

Bucs LB Lavonte David

Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

The Bucs will come into the game trying to establish the one-two punch of Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones II, who had a breakup game last week against San Francisco. But Carolina Pro Bowl middle linebacker Luke Kuechly is capable of shutting down Tampa Bay’s interior ground game.

Newton is a prime time player, and with this game being on Thursday Night Football, he’ll be on top of his game if the Panthers can get an early lead. The key for the Bucs to win this game is to capture an early lead, put pressure on Newton with linebackers Lavonte David and Shaquil Barrett, win the turnover battle and for Winston to play incredibly well without any turnovers. That will be a challenge and I don’t think Tampa Bay is quite ready for prime time just yet.

Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Panthers 26, Buccaneers 17
Reynolds’ Pick-To-Click: ILB Lavonte David
Season Prediction Record: 0-1 Editor / Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook

Losing last week to the 49ers was a blow to Tampa Bay and its fans. Like a handful of other games on the schedule, it was one of those “supposed to win” games. Now the Buccaneers will need to go steal one of the “supposed to lose” games in Carolina. As disappointed as everyone is with the loss last week, it can all turn around if the Bucs can go win on the road against the Panthers.

This isn’t an invincible Panthers football team. Carolina is talented and playing at home under the lights of a national television audience, but that doesn’t mean Tampa Bay should just hand the Panthers a win. Carolina lost both of its nationally televised games last season and finished with a 7-9 record. The Panthers won two more games than Tampa Bay and people are acting like Carolina is a Super Bowl contender this year for some reason. And remember that one of those losses came at Tampa Bay.

Panthers QB Cam Newton - Photo by: Getty Images

Panthers QB Cam Newton – Photo by: Getty Images

With that said, Carolina is, and should be the favorites in Week 2. The Panthers have played under their current system for a number of years and had a really good shot at beating the NFC champion L.A. Rams last week. A few more minutes and they probably do.

Quarterback Cam Newton is a Pro Bowler, a former league MVP, and a constant thorn in Tampa Bay’s side. Running back Christian McCaffrey is one of the best in the league as a dual threat runner and receiver out of the backfield, and offensive coordinator Norv Turner loves to keep teams off balance. The Bucs defense will have to stay disciplined, tackle extremely well and when a turnover presents itself, grab the opportunity and capitalize on it.

Offensively, the Bucs need to establish an identity. Are they a power running team? A vertical passing team? There is no question that Tampa Bay has the most talented offense of the two teams, but it needs to hit its stride and that needs to happen on Thursday night. We can’t say it enough – it has to start upfront with the offensive line. Tackles Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson must play better than they did last week against the 49ers or they don’t have a chance.

I think the Buccaneers have a good shot at surprising the league and stealing a win. It should be a close game and will come down to which team makes the fewest amount of mistakes. I see a tight game down the stretch with Carolina hitting a field goal in the fourth quarter and then keeping the Bucs out of field goal range at the end.

Cook’s Score Prediction: Panthers 23, Buccaneers 21
Cook’s Pick-To-Click: TE O.J. Howard
Season Prediction Record: 0-1 Bucs Beat Writer Trevor Sikkema

This is where things start to get though. This is where you look at the Bucs schedule and think, “Hey, this seems sort of unfair.” And that’s because it is.

Tampa Bay is facing off against Carolina this week in what is an uphill battle for many reasons. The main one being that these two teams are kicking off just four days after playing their Week 1 opponent – the only difference is that the Bucs are the road team.

Carolina and Tampa are both 0-1 going into this one, but it’s a very different looking 0-1. The Panthers fell to a team that went to the Super Bowl a year ago, and if that game between them and the Rams went for another quarter, I bet Carolina would have won. The Panthers were really hitting their groove at the end and only lost by three.

Tampa Bay, on the other hand, lost by 14 points to a very beatable 49ers team while at home, in a manner in which they gave the game away on more than one occasion. Quarterback Jameis Winston threw three interceptions, including two pick-sixes.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and OC Byron Leftwich

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and OC Byron Leftwich – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

On defense, the key in this game will be how the Bucs handle the Panthers’ gadget players. Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore present Todd Bowles’ defense with some tough match-ups. Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner has really started to hit his stride with these guys, and I am afraid the Bucs just don’t have the athletes or the experience in their coverage unit to keep up.

On the other side of things, last week was not pretty when it came to the play calls and play designs from Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich, as well as how Winston executed them. The Bucs were far too easy to cover, mainly because the plays they tried to run were either difficult or too predictable. Winston and the play-callers have to get a lot more simple and a lot more in sync to keep up with Carolina in this one.

The Bucs offensive line didn’t have a great game against San Francisco, but they weren’t as bad as we thought watching live on Sunday. The Bucs’ O-line will have a another tough task on Thursday night with a dangerous Carolina front four that went sackless against Los Angeles. The O-line need to be at its best for Winston to execute enough for the win.

Sikkema’s Score Prediction: Panthers 31, Buccaneers 24
Sikkema’s Pick-To-Click: QB Jameis Winston
Season Prediction Record: 0-1 Bucs Beat Writer Taylor Jenkins

Coming off of a disappointing loss at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in Tampa Bay’s season-opener, the Bucs have to bounce right back into a divisional road game against the Carolina Panthers on a short week.

While fingers were pointed at Jameis Winston after his three-interception game that included two of them being returned for touchdowns, he will look to rebound with a big performance. An improvement will be critical, not just for his own sake, but for the Bucs’ sake as well. Teams that start 0-2 have an extremely uphill battle if they want to find a spot in the playoffs.

On the positive side for Tampa Bay, the defense and offensive line seemed to make immediate strides, while the running game looked significantly improved from years past, with Ronald Jones II having the best game of his career. The defense allowed just 17 points, adding two turnovers, while Jones totaled 75 yards on 13 carries at a clip of 5.8 yards per carry.

Bucs TE O.J. Howard

Bucs TE O.J. Howard – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

If the Bucs stand any chance on Thursday the offensive line will need to keep improving and Winston will have to find a way to start the game quicker and give the offense a chance to build a lead. Byron Leftwich’s play-calling will need to get Winston into rhythm and take advantage of the Bucs’ biggest strengths, wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, as well as tight ends Cam Brate and O.J. Howard. The Panthers’ don’t hold a candle to the Bucs’ weapons, so a Tampa Bay offense that’s firing at all cylinders and limiting turnovers will always be a dangerous challenge.

If the Panthers are able to get an early advantage, the talent of Cam Newton and running back Christian McCaffrey, both on the ground and catching the ball out of the backfield, may allow Carolina to control the game and put Tampa Bay in a hole it just won’t be able to climb out of.

Jenkins’ Score Prediction: Panthers 28, Buccaneers 20
Jenkins’ Pick-To-Click: WR Mike Evans
Season Prediction Record: 0-1 Bucs Beat Writer Matt Matera

Playing on a short week on the road doesn’t do any favors for the Bucs, especially as they try to work out the kinks for their offense that gave up more points than they scored last Sunday. After seeing an old friend in Kwon Alexander (albeit for a short time) last game, they will see a former long-time player that spent nine years on the Bucs in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, and I’m sure he’ll be looking to make a statement. I could see McCoy notching at least one sack for revenge on Thursday, if not more.

Wide receiver Mike Evans is coming off a game where he had two catches for 28 yards against Richard Sherman along with battling an illness. His match-up gets no easier this week facing James Bradberry, who played a part in shutting out Evans in their game in Carolina last season. Overall, the Bucs receivers never really had a chance to get some space against the 49ers, and the task gets just as tough playing against the Panthers. Tight end O.J. Howard also had a rough opener and needs to bounce back as well.

It’s a must that the Bucs win those battles because Jameis Winston will more than likely be under duress once again. The offensive line held up in the first half of their opening game, but the pass protection slowed down in the second. One positive was a great running game by Ronald Jones II, so look for the Bucs to ride that hot hand again to help get the ball down the field.

Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

The Bucs defense looked very strong to start the season, but now it faces one of the best and most versatile backs in the league in Christian McCaffrey. The question will be who guards against him in the passing game? Will it be a speedy linebacker like Devin White, or will someone from the secondary have to come down? Either way, McCaffrey is as tough a match-up as it gets, and it might take some time during the game before the defense figures out how to slow him down. If there’s anyone that can figure it out, it’s defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

Between trying to stop the duo of McCaffrey and Cam Newton along with trying to get this offense on track, I think the Bucs suffer from having less time to prepare while they try to get the sour taste of four turnovers out of their mouth from Sunday. Carolina will have just a bit more punch to its game while Tampa Bay is trying to figure out how to get its offense back on track.

Matera’s Score Prediction: Panthers 27, Buccaneers 18
Matera’s Pick-To-Click: RB Ronald Jones II
Season Prediction Record: 0-1

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at
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1 year ago

Hate to say it but we’ve seen this Thursday night situation before. This is going to be a train wreck. I hope I’m wrong because I have tickets to a lot of games and I want to see competitive games late in the season but the Atlanta game comes to mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if they put up 50 on us and we lose by 30 points. McCaffrey is going to eat us up. Our garbage offensive line will get overwhelmed. Winston will crumble and the turnovers will start.

1 year ago

Leftwich has to devise a game plan that takes the constant pressure off of Jameis! Quick hits:slants, curls, 7-10 yard, three step drop and out with the ball! This offense was built around the talents of Jameis. Jameis doesn’t have to win the game! Just distribute the ball and let ur playmakers do what they do. He just needs to be a game manager. Why does BA allow a seven step drop when Jameis is under constant pressure? If this combination of O-Line can’t due the job, let’s put the backups in! Go Bucs! I just hope it’s not an… Read more »

Buc stops here
Reply to  bucballer
1 year ago

Leftwich gave Winston a dump off route on most passes last Sunday. The problem was, he rarely took the dump-off and went downfield instead – even when there was tight coverage on a couple of occasions which resulted in two of the four interceptions. When he did “check down” he threw it too hard and the RB or TE could not catch the pass most of the time, because he did it too late. This is according to the announcers during the game, as well as BA. Unless Winston executes correctly even with shorter passes he won’t make it happen.… Read more »

Reply to  Buc stops here
1 year ago

Uh…… 3 INT’s, not 4. The other turnover was OJ’s fumble. Could’ve been 5, though

Buc stops here
Reply to  GrayBalls
1 year ago

That was included in the four – OJ’s fumble was one of them. A receiver was out of position on one of them. The other two were on Winston.

1 year ago

LB White has to adjust to the NFL game speed and produce for us! He was stud coming out of college, so let’s get involved with a sack or two! I want to start hearing his name on the tackle. Come on Devin, I know u got this son! Go Bucs!

Buc stops here
1 year ago

That says it all… no one has confidence the Bucs can win, and it all comes down to the fact that no one in their right mind will trust Winston to do the right thing until he does it. Can only hope he learned from his game against the 49ers but somehow I doubt it.

1 year ago

Last week you all predicted a Bucs win and we lost. This week you all predicted a Bucs loss, so I’m calling the win this week! The Panthers offense outside of CMac does not appear to be in rhythm, with Cam looking pedestrian. I think Bowles and this youngry (I’m bringing it back!) defense will keep the Panthers in check, and some timely turnovers will help this Bucs offense score some points on a short field. GMC gets his sack, but otherwise has a quiet day. Jameis still does not look great out there, but does just enough, and the… Read more »

1 year ago

Actually these three games were supposed to be the easiest part of their schedule. Yes they’re on the road on a short week, but traveling to Carolina isn’t exactly a long road trip. What better time to have a Thursday night game then in the beginning of the season when everyone is still fresh? It would be much harder if it was week 8, or 10. Scott how can you say you’d pick the Bucs if this was a home game? They seem to choke more at home then on the road. No excuses for this one, the Bucs are… Read more »

1 year ago

I’m predicting a Win. Because why the Hell not? What good does it do to predict a Loss? Nobody here is in the running for some prediction competition. The thing is, the Bucs can win any game they play in, if they don’t beat themselves. Plain and simple. So I hope they Win.

1 year ago

Usually, after your teams 1st game, You kinda get vibes about the 2nd one. I’m not gun-ho or getting great vibes about our chances in Carolina. Prove me wrong Bucs. You gotta outplay your opponent in his house to whip ’em. Like the 9ers did us. Panthers will be fired up big time. We shall see. Hate to see us start our upward hill climb behind the eight ball so early in the season. Its still a”BUCLIFE baby! PANTHERS 24 BUCS 16

1 year ago

the BUCS better win this game

1 year ago

27-24 Bucs!

1 year ago

So this is where BA and his army of coaches need to earn their keep. Fixing mistakes, implementing a game plan to surprise Carolina while we pretty much know what they will do. We need to shorten the routes, QB drop backs. The Panthers are weak against the run. Our D is wholly new them as well.

Let’s see if the coaches are as good as advertised.

1 year ago

It would be all so sweet if we could get the run game going with RoJo! We need OJ to rebound as well. Keep him in chip block a bit… and then release one play and hit him for a nice 25 yard game! I don’t think it’s necessary for Jameis to throw down field in this game…well keep em honest 2-3 times…but I believe with Our starting offensive playmakers that there are enough balls to go around! Short and intermediate stuff. Let them rush… because I hope it’s not a surprise when they do… and hit the crossing routes… Read more »

1 year ago

Short drops Jameis! Quick decisions bro!

1 year ago

Lastly, cut down on the penalties! That is something we can control! Cost us 2 TDS last week… game could have been a bit different…I’m just saying

Reply to  bucballer
1 year ago

Well, only one of the TDs would’ve counted, since they both happened on the same drive. But, I get your point. Definitely could have changed the complexion of the game. I was honestly surprised when Cam nor Jameis didn’t sucker punch Dotson after the second one

Alldaway 2.0
1 year ago

Bucs defense can show up to shut down Cam and CMC. All that is left is for the offense to show up to the party.

Go Bucs!

Patriots in pre season third game simply ran at the Panthers front seven all game while playing bump and run with their WR’s and blitzing the A gaps to pressure Cam quickly.

1 year ago

This game might be very telling. It will be interesting to see if the players come out with the mindset to put forth maximum effort to put the season opening loss behind them or if they merely go through the motions thinking they’re destined to lose this game anyway. I saw little in the 49ers game to lead me to think the culture has changed much just yet. Cam “Poutin” has more mood swings than Sybil. When things are going his way he’s flying around with his arms out pretending to be Superman. When the going gets tough he mopes… Read more »

Reply to  scubog
1 year ago

Scubog, right with you. I’m hoping for an upset and watch QB Newton hang his head with a towel over it rather than him show off his happy face and superman pose. Go Bucs!

1 year ago

Bucs 88- Panthers 0
Go Bucs!

(isn’t this what you’re supposed to say here?)

1 year ago

I’m picking the Bucs tonight. I think they try to run the ball more and control the clock. Had some nice long drives last game and I think they will build off that. I also think the defense can contain the Panthers offense considering CMC is there only threat, the defense can focus on him and limit his production. 23-20 Bucs on last second FG. This all depends on Jameis not doing something stupid of course which I was very critical of last game and stand by my opinions but I think the game plan will limit Jameis’s opportunity to… Read more »

Buc stops here
1 year ago

I hope all of the prognosticators are wrong. All the professionals except for one holdout on CBS the Panthers to win. The list is daunting: – Greg Rosenthal – Panthers – all pickers – Panthers
ProFootballTalk – Mike Florio – Panthers
USA Today – all pickers – Panthers
SBNation – all pickers – Panthers – Panthers – Panthers/Bucs (only split)