The PewterReport.com 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.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (0-1) AT CAROLINA PANTHERS (0-1)
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 8:20 P.M. ET
BANK OF AMERICA STADIUM (73,778)
TELEVISION: NFL NETWORK
PLAY-BY-PLAY: JOE BUCK
ANALYST: TROY AIKMAN
SIDELINE: ERIN ANDREWS AND KRISTINA PINK
BUCS RADIO: 98ROCK, FLAGSHIP STATION (WXTB-97.9 FM)
PLAY-BY-PLAY: GENE DECKERHOFF
ANALYST: DAVE MOORE
SIDELINE: T.J. RIVES
PewterReport.com 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.
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
PewterReport.com 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.
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
PewterReport.com 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.
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
PewterReport.com 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.
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
PewterReport.com 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.
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