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Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Game Preview

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The Bucs look to avenge an early November loss against a division rival

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay will attempt to move to 2-1 in division play on Sunday
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It’s round two between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers. This time around, Jameis Winston will take his shot at the Cats from the Carolinas.

The first meeting was a dominated by the Panthers. Tampa Bay made a heroic attempt at a comeback, but fell short in the end.

The Panthers have lost three games in a row and the Bucs are coming off a win against the San Francisco 49ers.

How will this week’s matchup shake out?


  • All-time series: The Panthers lead the all-time regular season series, 23-13. The Bucs are 6-11 at home and 7-12 on the road. Carolina won the most recent meeting, 42-28 earlier in the season.
  • Longest win streak: Carolina won six in a row from 2013-2016.
NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
Jameis Winston will try and face down his demons against the Panthers today
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
  • Largest victory: The Panthers won 48-16 on Christmas Eve of 2011.
  • 2018 offensive and defensive rankings: The Bucs continue to hold on to the league’s top offensive ranking (1st pass, 26th run) and the 27th ranked defense (27th pass, 18th run) . Carolina owns the 13th best offense (21st pass, 5th run) and the 14th best defense (22nd pass, 5th run).

What To Watch For

  • Carolina’s rushing attack vs. the Tampa Bay defense: The Panthers amassed a 35-7 lead in the first matchup thanks to a deadly running game.
  • James Bradberry vs. Mike Evans: Bradberry got the best of Evans last time around. It feels like Evans will get more than just one catch this week.
  • Lavonte David’s return: The Bucs best linebacker is healthy and will play this week.
  • Vita Vea’s development: Can he continue the momentum from the 49ers game?
  • Tampa Bay’s secondary: There are injuries galore to a unit that was already struggling with the starters in place.

Impact Players

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • QB Jameis Winston: Tampa Bay’s signal caller got his first win since getting benched about a month ago, can he build off last week’s performance?
  • WR Mike Evans: With DeSean Jackson out Evans will be counted on more than ever this week.
  • The offensive line: This unit has to be better this week. Plain and simple.
  • DT Vita Vea: The rookie looked like a top draft pick against the 49ers and will need to continue that this week.
  • LB Lavonte David: His presence will fire up the defense.
  • CB Brent Grimes: The Bucs’ secondary is hurting. Grimes needs to step up this week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers
Adam Humphries had a career day in the last meeting between these two teams
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Carolina Panthers

  • QB Cam Newton: This is obvious.
  • RB Christian McCafferey: The lone bright spot in the Panthers’ losing streak, Tampa Bay has to corral him on Sunday.
  • TE Greg Olsen: The Bucs did an OK job with George Kittle last week. Now let’s see what they can do with Olsen.
  • DT Kawaan Short: One of the best interior defenders in the game, Tampa Bay’s interior line will have their hands full.
  • LB Luke Kuechly: This is as obvious as Cam Newton.
  • CB Donte Jackson: Jackson has played well this year and has become a major component in the secondary.

Game Outlook

If the Bucs can avoid turnovers like last week then this game can be won pretty easily. The Panthers currently have no answers on defense and the offense is dealing with some injuries.

But they will have to find a way to shut down Christian McCafferey - which is easier said than done. It will be interesting to see if Tampa Bay can continue the momentum from last week.