Week 13 Preview: Panthers at Buccaneers
Week 13 Preview: Panthers at Buccaneers
1:00 p.m. Sunday December 2, 2018
Going into week 13 the Panthers are looking to get back on track before their playoff hopes slip out of reach. With the emerging, Baker Mayfield led, Cleveland Browns next week followed by three tough divisional games (vs NO, vs ATL, at NO) to end the year, this Sunday is huge. Coaches and players don’t like to talk about games beyond the current week, but fans do, and we know that this week is a must-win for the Panthers.
The Buccaneers have been on a steady downward spiral after their initial 2 – 0 start fueled by Ryan “Fitzmagic.” Ever since, it seems the Bucs change QB’s every other week, often at halftime of the current game when one QB struggles. The Panthers of the Kuechly-era would normally feast on a weaker foe like this but this year the defense has just not looked right. In previous years there has been plenty of criticism for the play of the secondary and this year is no different. While this may be just, I feel as if they are not solely responsible for some of these big plays down field they have surrendered. I have a bone to pick with the defensive line! There has been very little pressure applied to opposing teams and no consistency throughout the entirety of the game. Last week against the Seahawks, the d-line did a great job of bottling up the run and keeping Wilson contained in the first half. Then proceeded to disappear in the 2nd half and allow for the eventual comeback win by Wilson and the Hawks.
Currently, the Panthers are tied for 23rd in the league with 25 sacks. Mario Addison leads the way with 7.5 sacks, Julius Peppers with 4 sacks, Shaq Thompson has 3 sacks and nobody else has more than 2. A 38-year old Peppers in 2nd place on the team for sacks is not a great recipe for success. Take away Addison’s 3 sack game against the Bucs from week 10 and the numbers get even more pedestrian. As the weeks go on the Panthers are feeling the effects of losing DT Star Lotulelei who was great at clogging the middle but also occupied bodies for the edge rushers. Their offseason acquisition of Dontari Poe, albeit a much better contract hasn’t worked out as well as both sides had hoped up to this point. Let’s hope on Sunday Addison and company can get more pressure on the turnover prone, “Famous” Jameis Winston. If the Panthers can make Winston uncomfortable and keep from giving up the deep ball, then the offense should be able to feast on this Bucs defense like they did in week 10.
Just a few weeks earlier, the Panthers seemed to be starting to really gain momentum on offense. At times they have looked unstoppable with Cam and CMC starting to mesh nicely with Norv Turner’s play calling. Mix in the fact that you have a healthy Curtis Samuel and Greg Olsen (fingers crossed) to give Newton more skilled weapons than he has ever had in his time as a Panther. Oh, and don’t forget the emergence of rookie WR D.J. Moore! Who has looked every bit the part of a true # 1 WR over the past few games. Since their week 4 bye, Moore has been the among the leaders in yards after catch (YAC) and it’s because of the separation he is able to get from the defenders. He is averaging 4.2 yards of separation on his catches compared to fellow Panther, Devin Funchess who is averaging only 2.2. Longtime Panthers fans have enjoyed watching Moore grow as of late because he reminds us of former Panthers great, Steve Smith. The Panthers spent years trying to replace Steve Smith and it appears they finally have a guy that projects to do so.
Couple Moore’s play as of late with the scorching-hot Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers rushing attack that is 3rd in the league with 138.4 rush yards per game. CMC has been doing it all, running the ball inside and outside of the tackles as well as being a pass-catching machine out of the backfield. Leading the team in not only rushing yards (757) but also receiving yards (608). Truly solidifying his stake as a do-it-all, 3 down back.
All that said, the man who must take charge on Sunday and going forward if the Panthers are to make a push for the playoffs is Cam. Newton is the guy the Panthers need to play with some fire on Sunday because when he does, the team follows. After two excruciating losses at the hands of the Detroit Lions (L 19 - 20) and the always tough, Seattle Seahawks (L 27 - 30) there should be plenty of motivation.
I think this one will closely resemble the one from week 10. The Bucs will be without TE O.J. Howard and #2 WR DeSean Jackson but in steps Chris Godwin, another speedster in his place. The Panthers should have Donte Jackson back who is expected to play so hopefully they can avoid too many big plays down field. If they can do this, I think they win handily. It would be nice to see them get up early and go for the jugular but that has not been this teams forte. Sunday will be a big determining factor in the Panthers playoff hopes.
The only Panther to carry a designation on the injury report leading into Sunday is WR Devin Funchess, who is doubtful to play. Torrey Smith and Donte Jackson are in line to return on Sunday. Da’Norris Searcy returned to practice this week but has not been activated off IR.
Betting Line: (as of Sat, Dec 1)
O/U - 54
My prediction: Panthers 38 Buccaneers 24
References: Charlotte Observer, Tampa Bay Times, NFL.com, Pro Football Focus, 5dimes.eu