After back-to-back road games, the Bucs (2-3) will get to come home and take on the Panthers (3-2) in hopes of getting back to the .500 mark.
The only thing is, “home” is considered London, England this week, which is about a 10-hour trip across the Atlantic Ocean.
Seems a little off, right?
Regardless of circumstance, the Bucs will have to find a way to get the job done this weekend. Not only do they need to get back to .500 if they want to stay in the hunt for the NFC South, but they’ll have to do it possibly down two starters on the offensive line and under somewhat-difficult travel conditions.
An overseas win would be just what this team needs as it gets ready to head into the bye week.
- All-time series record: The Panthers lead 23-15, but the Bucs have won the past two in a row, including a 20-14 matchup in Week 2 of this season.
- Playoff history: These two teams have never met in the postseason.
- Longest win streak: Carolina won six games between 2013-2016, but the Bucs have a chance to tie their three-game streak with a win this weekend.
- Largest margin of victory: A dominating 48-16 Panthers win in 2011 is still the largest margin of victory.
- 2019 offensive and defensive rankings: The Bucs dropped to 17th overall in offense (12th pass, 19th run) and 26th in total defense (32nd pass, 2nd run). The Panthers currently sit at 14th in total offense (23rd pass, 4th run) and 8th in total defense (4th pass, 24th run).
What To Watch For
- Injuries on the offensive line: RG Alex Cappa and RT Demar Dotson will both miss this game. That’s the Bucs’ starting right side of the offensive line. Can Earl Watford and Josh Wells step up in their absence?
- Calling all wide receivers: Outside of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, there has been very little production from the wide receivers. Breshad Perriman is out again: so can anyone make a play for Jameis Winston?
- The Kyle Allen Show: He’s been great in three starts and looks like the potential future of the franchise. Will the Bucs be able to make him look average?
- Bucs’ secondary vs. Panthers’ receivers: You know the story. Tampa Bay’s secondary has to stop letting opponents walk all over them.
- Panthers’ interior line vs. Bucs’ defensive line: With Trai Turner out, the Bucs’ defensive line should have a big day.
- Bucs’ running backs: Kawaan Short is out, so that means Tampa Bay should be able to run the ball quite efficiently.
- WR Chris Godwin: He should feast off the play-action game. If the Bucs decide to employ it.
- WR Mike Evans: James Bradberry has kept him in check lately, but that doesn’t mean he will go away quietly this week.
- Bucs’ defensive line: See above. This should be a big game for Vita Vea and co.
- LB Lavonte David: He’s the most consistent playmaker on the defense right now.
- Bucs’ secondary: Can we PLEASE see some improvement this week?
- QB Kyle Allen: Cam Newton who? Allen is 3-0 as a starter and has been very good over the last three weeks.
- RB Christian McCaffrey: The Bucs shut him down in the last matchup, but it will be very difficult to do it again.
- TE Greg Olsen: Tight ends have not been good to the Bucs and Olsen looks to continue that trend.
- DE/OLB Mario Addison: This guy always seems to have a good game against the Bucs.
- OLB Brian Burns: He’s been one of the NFL’s best rookies and should have a big day with Dotson out.
- CB James Bradberry: Bradberry has been Evans’ kryptonite over the past few contests.
- Shaquil Barrett ranks first in the NFL with 9.0 sacks through Week 5 of the 2019 NFL season. He is one of five players in NFL history with 9.0-or-more sacks through his team’s first five games.
- A season ago, the Buccaneers ranked 20th in defensive rush average and 24th in rushing yards allowed per game. Through Week 5, Tampa Bay ranks as a top two team in the NFL in both categories, while facing Christian McCaffrey, Saqoun Barkley, Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara and the 49ers second-ranked rushing attack.
- Winston has had a productive start to the 2019 NFL season, setting a new franchise record for passing yards through five games with 1,371 yards.
- Chris Godwin’s six receiving touchdowns through five games set a new franchise record.
- The Buccaneers have scored 147 points through the first five games, the most through five games in team history. The team needs one point to tie for the third-most (148 in 2012), three points to tie for second-most (150 in 2000) and 20 points to tie for the most points through six games in team history (167 in 2018).
*Stats provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Communications Department
If it weren’t for the injuries to the offensive line, then the Bucs would likely win this game. But without Cappa and Dotson, it’s likely they won’t.
The offensive line has struggled enough in pass protection with those two in the lineup and there’s little reason to think things will improve with two backups taking over their spots. Add when you add in the fact that Carolina has an extremely tough front seven - even without Short - then it becomes clear that this will likely determine the outcome of the game.
Tampa Bay’s secondary is a mess, too. If it weren’t for Newton’s inaccuracies in the first matchup, then the Bucs may have lost that game, too. Allen has come in and stabilized the position, which is the main reason for the Panthers’ three-game winning streak.
If the Bucs can remain stout - and consistent - up front on both sides of the ball, then there is a good chance they win this game. I can see that happening on the defensive side of the ball, but I’m not sure about the offensive side.
Unfortunately, Merry Ol’ London won’t be too merry when Tampa Bay boards the plane back home.