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Carolina Panthers v Kansas City Chiefs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers: Game Preview

The Bucs look to bounce back and get to 7-3 on the season.

Curtis Samuel has been heating up over the last couple of weeks.
| Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3) coming off a Sunday Night Football shellacking from the New Orleans Saints (6-2) and now must travel up to Charlotte, North Carolina to take on the Carolina Panthers (3-6).

Carolina has lost three straight games, but that doesn’t mean they should be taken lightly. Can Tampa Bay get it done and get back to .500 in division play?


  • All-time series history: The Panthers lead the all-time series, 24-16.
  • Longest win streak: Carolina won six in a row from 2013-2016.
  • Largest margin of victory: Tampa Bay lost, 48-16, back in 2011.
  • 2020 offensive and defensive rankings: Tampa Bay currently boasts the 22nd-best offense (16th passing, 30th rushing) and the fourth-best defense (14th passing, 1st rushing). The Panthers are 15th in total offense (13th passing, 18th rushing) and 17th in total defense (20th passing, 13th rushing).
NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Las Vegas Raiders
Will the Bucs’ offensive line struggle again without Marpet in the lineup?
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What To Watch For

  • Ali has left the building: Another week, another game without the Bucs’ best player on the offensive line. The situation moved into hopeful territory after Marpet practiced on Wednesday, but it wasn’t enough as he couldn’t get out of protocol and didn’t travel with team. A.Q. Shipley will start at center and Ryan Jensen will kick over to guard. It’s an interesting move considering the importance of quarterback-center familiarity. Let’s just hope the Bucs are much better up front this week.
  • The Panthers’ pass rush: Or lack thereof. This would be mentioned even if Marpet was playing. Carolina’s pass rush is almost non-existent. They have the second-fewest sacks (9), third-lowest pressure percentage, third-fewest quarterback knockdowns, and the fifth-lowest adjusted sack rate in the NFL. We’ve seen what pressure can do to the Bucs’ offense in their three losses, so one has to figure that the Panthers will try and dial something up on Sunday.
  • Tampa Bay’s secondary vs. Carolina’s receivers: The Panthers’ wideouts have had some pretty good success against the Bucs over the last couple of years. D.J. Moore makes plays on a routine basis, Curtis Samuel has made the Bucs look silly from time to time, and Robby Anderson has a 100-yard outing in his only matchup as a Panther. All of a sudden Tampa Bay’s secondary looks iffy. Can Carlton Davis III and co. keep the Panthers’ receivers in check?
  • Matt Rhule/Joe Brady vs. Todd Bowles: Rhule and Brady have done an excellent job with this offense. The Bucs have struggled with offenses that use a variety of personnel and formations and presnap motion. Well, that’s exactly what this Panthers offense does. It’s hard for a defense to tell who takes who as all the pieces move around before the snap. Tampa Bay’s defense will need to show that it’s getting back on track with a strong performance. Watch out for the fake punt, too!
  • Antonio Brown: This could be big and the temperature will increase to about 150 degrees if Jeremy Chinn ends up missing the game. The Panthers have two very good corners in Donte Jackson and Rasul Douglas, but they will be preoccupied with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. There’s a steep drop-off at the third CB position if Chinn doesn’t go, which should really open up some opportunities for Brown. He could have a big day on Sunday.

Impact Players

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • QB Tom Brady: He’s coming off his worst game of the season. We know what usually happens after that. Hopefully Brady bounces back like history suggests he will.
  • C A.Q Shipley: The veteran offensive lineman is familiar with the system, but we obviously won’t know how effective he will be until kickoff.
  • WR Antonio Brown: This has all the makings of a big day for Brown. I’d start him in fantasy if he’s on your team.
  • DL William Gholston: This dude just keeps making plays every week. He was constantly in the backfield against the Saints and should continue his 2020 success against the Panthers this week.
  • LB Lavonte David: If anyone can get the troops to circle the wagons, it’s David. He’ll rally this defense and get things back on track.
  • CB Jamel Dean: The third-year corner has been the Achilles heel of the secondary the last couple of weeks. He’s gotta get back to his Week 1-7 form.
NFL: Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers
Mike Davis has played will while Christian McCaffrey has been out.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers

  • QB Teddy Bridgewater: The play has dipped a bit recently, but he’s still one of the smartest quarterbacks in the game. Tampa Bay forced him into some mistakes back in Week 2, so the hope is that same feat can be repeated.
  • RB Mike Davis: Yes, losing Christian McCaffrey is a big deal. But Davis played really well from Week 3 - Week 8 while CMC was out. Tampa Bay can’t take this guy lightly.
  • WR Curtis Samuel: Samuel is probably still burned in the brains of most Bucs fans after his insane 2018 rushing touchdown. Regardless, he’s been heating up the last few weeks with four total touchdowns in his last three games.
  • DL Derrick Brown: The rookie has had to step it up with Kawaan Short out for the year. He’s shown flashes of greatness and will have to be contained if the Bucs want continuity on offense.
  • OLB Brian Burns: One of Donovan Smith’s best friends. Burns usually makes a play or two against the Bucs. That can’t happen this week.
  • CB Rasul Douglas: I’d put Chinn here, but his status is still unknown at this point. Douglas has been a major factor in holding this secondary together when he’s on the field. That will go a long way this weekend.

Cool Stats

  • In 2020, Shaquil Barrett has 25 quarterback pressures, which are tied for the second-most in the NFL this season. His 75 pressures since the start of the 2019 season rank third in the NFL.
  • Chris Godwin has 3,020 career receiving yards. He needs 424 more to pass Gerald Carter (3,443 from 1981-87) for the ninth-most receiving yards in franchise history.
  • Rob Gronkowski has 82 regular season receiving touchdowns. He needs one more to pass Anquan Boldin and Reggie Wayne (82) for the 23rd-most touchdown receptions in NFL history. Including the postseason, Gronkowski has 94 receiving touchdowns and needs one more to tie Issac Bruce (95) and Hines Ward (91) for the 13th-most receiving touchdowns in NFL history (regular season and postseason combined).
  • Lavonte David has three career defensive touchdowns and needs one more to tie for the third-most in franchise history (David Logan, 1979-96; Mike Washington, 1976-84).
*Stats provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Communications Department
NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Las Vegas Raiders
Bruce Arians and Tom Brady can’t afford to let this game slip through their fingers.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Game Outlook

Tampa Bay should bounce back in this game, but it won’t be easy. Especially with Marpet missing another game.

One would think that the offensive line should still be able to hold up against an absent Panther pass rush, however, this is the NFL and anything can happen.

Carolina’s offense will probably make a lot of plays in this game. It’s the perfect type of offense to counteract the Bucs defense: A lot of window dressing, a lot of quick throws, and the ability to create space for their players is what this team does best. Unfortunately for the Bucs, those three keys are what hurts their defense the most.

The Panthers will be without starting left tackle Russell Okung, which is a big deal. The thought is that should be enough to help the Bucs defense keep the Panthers offense at bay (to an extent), but we won’t know that for sure until kickoff.

This game may be closer than most expect, but at the end of the day, expect the Bucs to move to 7-3 before hosting the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football (yikes) in Week 11.

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