The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are getting one last chance to prove that they have the potential to beat any team in the NFL when they take on the Carolina Panthers later today. But will they actually be able to beat a good team? The Bucs have had an easy schedule but managed to come out of it with just a 6-9 record, losing to every playoff team they've faced so far.
At the same time, they weren't hopeless the first time they faced the Panthers in week four, losing 37-23 as Jameis Winston threw four interceptions. In the eleven games since then, Winston has thrown just six interceptions, so we're unlikely to see a recurrence of that turnover-heavy day. Had he not thrown pick after pick, the Bucs could easily have walked away with the win that week.
At the same time, the Panthers have only gotten better as the year has progressed. Cam Newton has turned into arguably the most valuable player in the league, even though Ted Ginn Jr. is his best wide receiver. And on the other side of the ball Carolina is stifling, likely the best defense in the league. That's why the Panthers are 11-point favorites today
Still, this is a division game and the Bucs have done weirder things than beating the Panthers at the end of the season. With the Pantherrs losing last week, they could show up flat today. In fact, there's precedence for that: back in 2009 the Bucs were only the second team to beat the Saints in week sixteen. The Saints would finish with a 13-3 record and go on to win the Super Bowl, while the Bucs ended the year going 3-13. But that one win set the stage for next season, when Tampa Bay nearly made it to the playoffs, posting the best record the Bucs have produced the past decade.
So will the Bucs beat the Panthers? Give us your prediction below.