In their Week One matchup last week against the Los Angeles Rams, the Carolina Panthers were on the brink of the winning score. The Panthers drove down the field plenty of times. James Bradberry had a late interception. Joey Slye hit two out of three field goals.
All of this, but the Panthers still lost to the Rams, 30-27. Christian McCaffrey was by far the best offensive player in that game, amassing 209 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns (both rushing). The top storyline, however, was the number of missed opportunities that the Panthers had to win.
The good thing about Week One? It’s over, and the Panthers have turned their focus to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who they will face later tonight in a highly-anticipated Thursday Night Football matchup. What will the Panthers need to do in order to play better and beat the Buccaneers?
For one thing, the Panthers’ defense will need to shine as it did at times last week. While the Rams may have won the game, the Panthers defense shut down Goff, allowing him to throw for only 183 yards and one touchdown. As I previously mentioned, Bradberry picked off Goff late in the game to set up a potential game-winning drive. The run defense will need to perform better, however, as they allowed 166 yards to Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, and Darrell Henderson. The Buccaneers offense is no easy task to stop, with playmakers like Jameis Winston and Mike Evans that the Panthers will surely look to slow down.
Cam Newton will have to play better. While his 239 passing yards were impressive, he threw a costly interception late in the game. Newton also did not throw for any touchdowns, and on his few rushing attempts, he gained a net total of negative two yards. For a quarterback like Newton that likes to run, these numbers were not impressive. While Newton threw the ball a lot (38 attempts), he only once threw a pass more than 17 yards down the field. The Bucs know what McCaffrey can do, and they will surely look to stop him. That means that Newton will need to make plays with his arm.
Ball security will be very important. In the Panthers’ Week One loss, they fumbled the ball twice: once by wide receiver D.J. Moore on the opening drive, and another time by Newton on a backward pass during the second quarter. Ball security will not be easy against the Bucs, however, as the defensive line features the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, and William Gholston. Their linebacking corps features Lavonte David and LSU product Devin White, while the secondary features Vernon Hargraves. I expect to see a combination of quick slants, play action passes, and draw plays.
The Panthers had a short week to prepare for the Buccaneers, as there were only four days between their games. The same thing went for the Bucs, who only played the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. I am interested to see, at least for the first couple of minutes, if the two teams look a little sluggish.
I expect a good game between both teams, and I think Newton will have a breakout game, throwing for over 300 yards and two touchdowns.
Final score: Panthers 38, Buccaneers 24.