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Davy Jones’ Locker: Buccaneers vs Panthers Q&A with Cat Scratch Reader for Week 18

Previewing a make or break game for Tampa Bay

Carolina Panthers v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

The Buccaneers (-4) are in Carolina for the Regular season finale against the Panthers (+4) in a showdown that will determine how their season will go and potentially how different the future will look for Tampa Bay. The stakes are simple for these Bucs. Win and in, lose and out. After a disappointing loss to New Orleans, the Bucs are hoping to rebound against Carolina who has the worst record in the NFL.

To preview the game, we sat down with Walker Clement from Cat Scratch Reader to get a closer look at what has gone wrong in Carolina and where the Panthers go from here.

1. What do you think are some characteristics that Carolina will be looking for in their next head coaching hire?

After years of rigid, stale thinking with a dash of snake oil, I would like to say creativity, a track record of offensive innovation, and open mindedness. I’m afraid the answer is going to be “somebody willing to sign a contract with an owner who currently enjoys one of the worst reputations in the league.”

Detroit Lions (-3.5) OC Ben Johnson has been on a lot of fans’ wish lists since last season. Nobody now expects him to consider the Panthers barring some scandal of his own. It’s a great time to be us.

2. After watching Bryce Young’s first NFL season, what are your impressions of him and what expectations should Panthers fans have for him next year?

Young has put together some good series late in the season, but the overall impression of him is mixed at best. He has shown few flashes of greatness, or even goodness, that fans can hang their hopes on. The problem is that the team as a whole has been so terrible that analyzing what went wrong for Young this season has been a bit of a moldy chicken/rotten egg scenario. The coaching staff and roster both need significant upgrades this offseason, and that’s just so that we can start with a clean slate when evaluating what will basically be Young’s second rookie year.

3. The Panthers appear to be a team headed towards a lengthy rebuild, what would you say is the biggest need heading into their offseason?

A coach who is both competent and free to make his own decisions. With six head coaches in six seasons, David Tepper has given any leader on this team cause to look over their shoulder when things are down. Things are going to be down for a while because of how much work has to be done rebuilding the team as a whole.

Carolina Panther vs New York Giants Perry Knotts/Getty Images

Patience needs to be extended towards the coach, but the coach also has to be worth the patience. Reich’s firing was a bad look for Tepper and the whole process behind his hiring, but it was ultimately the right call. Reich wasn’t the guy. My sincerest hope for this team is that the lingering ignominy of that process doesn’t prevent the Panthers from hiring the right guy this time around.

4. When looking at this game, all the pressure is on the Bucs. The Panthers with nothing to lose could be dangerous. Is there any chance this is a trap game for Tampa Bay?

Maybe if Kyle Trask is starting, but this team has lost to back up quarterbacks before. The Panthers are usually capable of playing one close half of football. The question for Bucs fans or bettors is whether or not they think Tampa Bay can play at least three quarters.

5. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Bucs are a road favorite at -4. What are your thoughts on this line and what is your score prediction?

After last week’s shut out, Thomas Brown will be coaching hard for his next job. Young seems prideful and likely wants to erase that taste from his team’s mouth. I want to predict a barely precedented offensive explosion. They have scored north of 20 points four times this season and north of 30 only once. Their two wins have come by a combined score of 24-20, however, and there is nothing indicating that motivation translates to results for this team.

I’m expecting a low scoring game with the Panthers unable to score points and the Bucs unwilling to take big risks to score more points than they need to. The Bucs will win with a one score lead, but my guess is it will be by either three or four points if the Panthers score even one touchdown, which almost makes the Panthers attractive against the spread. The trick here is that you should never bet on the Panthers scoring a touchdown.

As for the final score? 14-9, Tampa Bay.

Thanks so much to Walker for doing this!