There was at least one Buccaneer who went through last week's victory with a somewhat bitter taste in his mouth. While most everyone was able to participate in the victory over the Browns, this man had no choice but to be a sideline spectator.
Last week, starting cornerback Aqib Talib was serving a one game suspension stemming back from an 2009 incident involving an altercation with a cab driver. Furthermore, while Talib will be permitted to play this weekend he's going to play for free. An added stipulation to his suspension was he would also forfeit an additional game check. Even though Talib won't be paid for his efforts, I expect a great performance from him against the Panthers. He'll be chomping at the bit to get in some real game action.
Though there is some uncertainty as to who will be throwing the ball for Carolina, there's no question who is their top receiving threat. Steve Smith is coming off a 5 catch game against the New York Giants in which he amassed 75 yards and a touchdown. Last year against the Bucs, Smith was kept from getting into the end zone in both contests. In week 6, the Bucs held Smith to one catch for a mere 4 yards at Raymond James Stadium. In week 13, Smith had 3 catches for a more respectable 78 yards, most of which came on a 66 yarder when he got in behind Elbert Mack in the early part of the 4th quarter.
Talib is entering his 3rd season in the league and has 17 starts under his belt. Many believe he is in line for a break-out season this year and could become the next great shutdown corner in the NFL. Though expectations are high, Talib is up for the challenge and has the athletic ability and dedication to achieve them.