Things are not well in the world of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since starting 3-1 and heading into the bye, they’ve lost six of seven and dropped to third place in the NFC South. They’ve suffered injuries to key players like Lavonte David, Devin White, Jamel Dean, Tristan Wirfs, Carlton Davis, and Baker Mayfield. It looks as though Lavonte David won’t be suiting up again this week while the Bucs are now uncertain of Devin White who missed practice on Thursday.
The good news is that they’re still very much in the hunt for the NFC South crown and it starts on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers are even worse off than the Bucs, having traded off Christian McCaffrey last year then shipping D.J. Moore out of town in order to secure Bryce Young - who is a sitting duck behind a revolving door of starting offensive linemen. Young has been sacked 40 times in just eleven games.
Oh, and they fired their head coach Frank Reich after a 1-10 start.
For as big of a mess as the Bucs appear to be and the issues they’ve consistently had throughout the season - pre-snap penalties, self inflicted wounds, red zone issues, lack of anything resembling a run game - they’re still the better football team compared to the Panthers.
Bryce Young is 37th in the NFL in catchable passes among quarterbacks. For those keeping score at home, there are only 32 NFL teams. That means that not only has Young been inaccurate this season but he’s been worse than teams that have started multiple quarterbacks this season. Not all of that is on him. He’s facing pressure on 24% of dropbacks so many of his throws have been under duress and as a result have been errant.
The addition of Adam Thielen has gone better than many expected, but other key additions like D.J. Chark and Miles Sanders have been drastically underwhelming. On top of that, the Panthers placed offensive lineman Chandler Zavala and wide receiver Laviska Shenault on injured reserve this week making two bad position groups for Carolina even worse.
One thing that is sure to keep Bucs fans interested is Mike Evans’ quest for 1,000 yards for the tenth consecutive season. Evans is just 150 yards away and the last time the Bucs faced Carolina he went for 207 yards and three touchdowns. In his 17 career games against the Panthers, Evans has 92 receptions for 1,296 yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s his most receptions and second most yards and touchdowns against any division rival over the course of his career.
However, the Panthers have a relatively decent pass defense - allowing under 180 passing yards per game. Now, some of that is a result of trailing in so many games that teams shift to the run in order to burn clock - Panthers allow 124.9 rush yards per game - but their secondary leaves a lot to be desired, especially with Jaycee Horn, Jeremy Chinn, Vonn Bell, and C.J. Henderson all dealing with injuries.
The Panthers lead the all-time series 25-20 but the Bucs have won seven of the last ten, including five of the last six. At home, the Bucs are 10-12 but have won three straight and four of five.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Bucs are 5-point home favorites with an over/under of 37. The Panthers have lost six straight road games and haven’t covered the spread in six straight games in the state of Florida. Meanwhile, Carolina’s last five games have hit the under.
The Buccaneers and Panthers kickoff in Raymond James Stadium on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on CBS with Tom McCarthy, James Lofton, and Jay Feely on the call.