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A Preview of the Buccaneers vs. Panthers: Carolina On My Mind

Our Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to North Carolina this weekend to face their division rival, the Carolina Panthers. Usually I'm less excited for away games, but this year I'm loving them because it means I can actually watch my favorite team play on Sunday. In related news, Carolina's streak of not being blacked out since 2002 was severely tested this week, but they managed to sell out just before the deadline. So, I guess the problem isn't exclusive to the Tampa Bay area.

Last season the Panthers had two very hard fought wins over the Buccaneers. I'll do a quick recap of each game and hit some highlights of how I think we can beat them this week, and what we need to watch out for. If you have any questions for the Panther's fans and writers over at Cat Scratch Fever, please click the link over in the fanpost section. Those guys have been absolutely wonderful in patiently answering all our questions thus far.

First some basics:

Buccaneers (1-0) vs. Panthers (0-1)

Kickoff: Sunday, 9/19 at 1:00 pm EST at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC

Line: Carolina favored by 3.5

Over/Under: 39

Read the recaps of last year's games and the analysis for this week after the jump...


The 0-6 Bucs welcomed the 2-3 Panthers last October in hopes of earning their first victory on the season. Despite a valiant effort put forth by defense and special teams they fell just short, losing 28-21. It was an exciting game for several reasons. The hit by Dante Wesley, which you can view below, a kickoff return by rookie Sammie Stroughter and an interception returned for a TD by Tanard Jackson. Both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart topped the 100 yard mark against our swiss cheese defensive line, and ended up with more rushing yards than we had total (267 to 245). Sadly this was Josh Johnson's best game as a Buccaneer. He went 11-17 for 145 yards, with no TD's and one interception. On the other side of the ball, Delhomme was absolutely horrible, going 9-17 for just 65 yards and throwing two picks. Unfortunately for us, it didn't matter because the Panther's controlled the clock and seemingly picked up first downs at will with their running game.

The next game wasn't quite as close. With a few games under his belt, rookie quarterback Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers arrived in Charlotte with a dismal 1-11 record. Freeman would go on to throw five interceptions (and over 300 yards for whatever that's worth) in this game and aside from that, there is really nothing much to speak of. An early Jonathon Stewart TD and a John Kasay field goal in the first quarter failed to intimidate the Bucs, as they managed to put Connor Barth field goals up on the board before heading into the locker room down 10-6 at halftime. Carolina managed to score a field goal in both the third and fourth quarters, while our offense put up a goose egg as Freeman continually turned the ball over in the red zone. Final score: 16-6 In my opinion that loss falls on Olson's shoulders. Freeman threw the ball a ridiculous 44 times in that game, when the run game was obviously working. Caddy had 92 yards on just 17 carries and even Mr. Lamborghini himself, Derrick Ward, managed to break off an 18 yard run.

What to Expect on Sunday:

At the present time (Friday afternoon) Matt Moore is listed as probable to start this game. Moore, who earned a reputation as a quarterback that is careful with the ball last season, looked very uncareful in Carolina's season opener vs. the New York Football Giants. Moore threw three interceptions, took four sacks, and posted an abysmmal 32.6 QB rating. Somehow rookie Jimmy Clausen managed a better QB rating even though he went 0-2 on his two attempts. Yep, it was that bad. Moore did manage to connect on a 19 yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith before being knocked out of the game. Smith, who is always a threat to score when he has the ball in his hands, will hopefully be locked down by the returning Aqib Talib on Sunday.

The vaunted duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart did not fare so well either last Sunday, tallying just 79 yards on 21 combined carries. Look for Carolina to try to establish the run early and often. It worked last year, and I fully expect them to try the same thing this year. Let's hope our new and improved defensive interior can slow down that rushing attack, if not stop it completely. The reason for their ineffective day on the ground can possibly be explained by an injury to right tackle Jeff Otah, and an improved New York defense that was devoted to stopping the run, and making the inexperienced Moore beat them with his arm. In my opinion, we should copy this defensive game plan in order to win this football game.

On the opposite side of the ball, Carolina was absolutely shredded by the dynamic duo of Manning and Harrison  Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks. Nicks, the second year receiver out of North Carolina (You shoulda drafted him John Fox!) caught three touchdowns on the day. Cornerback Chris Gamble is listed as questionable with an ankle injury, and if he doesn't start, nickelback Captain Munnerlyn will likely take his spot. Munnerlyn is only 5'8 and was beaten badly by Nicks on a 2nd quarter touchdown last week. Look for Olson to try to exploit this matchup.

New York also had a bit of success running the ball vs. the Panthers. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs managed to rack up 120 yards on the ground, while averaging just under 4.0 yards per carry. This isn't great by any means, but it should be encouraging enough for Olson to feel comfortable calling the game however he sees fit.

Fantasy Perspective:

Josh Freeman's thumb has continued to heal and our offense showed a lot of promise last week, albeit it was versus the Browns. I would expect Freeman to have quite a bit of success this week, especially if Gamble fails to make the start. I will be starting Freeman this week in fantasy football, but this is by necessity rather than because I think he will light it up (My number one and two QB's were Kolb and Stafford, ouch). I'll throw out 285 yards in the air, with two touchdowns and two picks, to go along with 40 rushing yards and a two point conversion (why not?) 

Expect Caddy to have an average day, 20 carries for around 80 yards with a touchdown thrown in.

Mike Williams will probably be the beneficiary of eight to nine targets. We'll guesstimate 5 catches for 69 yards. For more on William's chances, check out Craig's article below.

Expect Winslow to become an afterthought in the offense this week. Freeman had a lot of trouble throwing short routes over the middle in this matchup last year, and I expect Olson to shy away from similar routes this year. There is a chance that Winslow could make some plays down the seam and rip off some big chunks of yardage vs. their defense. He is a decent start, but I wouldn't hope for too much.

Tampa's Defense will be a decent start this week if your primary defense is facing a great offense like mine is (49ers taking on the Saints). We forced three turnovers last week and I expect a repeat performance.

Feel free to drop any comments you may have below. I'll do my best to answer any questions, and if I you have anything to add to the preview, please do so.