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Bucs Upcoming Opponent Scouting Report – Week 9 – Carolina Panthers

The Bucs face a must win game against a red hot division opponent on the road. Do they have a shot? With this offense, of course they do, but it will take more than Fitzmagic to win in Carolina.

Tale of the Tape

Buccaneers Panthers
Total Offense 467.6 (1st) 366.6 (18th)
Points Scored 28.7 (7th) 25.4 (12th)
Passing Offense 376.3 (1st) 227.7 (22nd)
Rushing Offense 91.3 (28th) 138.9 (2nd)
Total Defense 415.3 (29th) 351.0 (13th)
Opp Scoring 33.3 (32nd) 21.7 (11th)
Opp Passing 318.4 (31st) 255.1 (18th)
Opp Rushing 96.9 (10th) 95.9 (8th)
Turnover Ratio -13 (31st) + 6 (6th)

Buccaneers Offense vs. Carolina Defense

Fitzmagic is back, and the Bucs hope that with Ryan Fitzpatrick back at the helm, Tampa Bay can return to being the well oiled machine it was the first month of the season when Fitz was tearing up NFL record books and defenses. At the very least, Desean Jackson should be back in the offense, making the big play possible. Of course, the Panthers defense is no slouch. They aren’t as dominant as they have been in the past, ranking 13th in total defense and 11th in scoring defense, but they are formidable, especially at intercepting the ball, where they are tied for 8th in the league with 9 interceptions.

The Panthers defense isn’t that much better at home than they are on the road, surrendering 20.3 points per game. The Bucs offense on the road has been averaging 30.3 points per game, so typically, the road games turn into a track meet. Unfortunately for the Bucs, they’re 1-3 in those games.

Carolina Offense vs. Buccaneers Defense

When it comes to defensive football, the Bucs defense is downright offensive, especially on the road. Certainly, Tampa Bay surrendering 33.3 points per game is bad enough. It’s much, much worse on the road, folks. Tampa Bay gives up nearly 40 points a game on the road (39.8). It’s difficult to win football games like that.

Carolina has had a nice little offense under new coordinator Norv Turner, using it’s hard charging running game to power the engine. Cam Newton has kept himself out of trouble and limited the turnovers, allowing the Panthers to be efficent.

At home, Carolina is averaging higher than their average and 29.0 ppg, so Cam loves the home cooking. They’ve topped 30 three times this season, and each game was at home.

Special Teams

For Carolina, Graham Gano remains one of the best in the business, hitting all 11 field goals and 15 of his 17 extra points. His 63 yd long beat the New York Giants, so he has range from just about anywhere. Chandler Catanzaro has a long game winner himself (59 yd in OT against Cleveland) but he’s been terribly inconsistent all year. Catanzaro is 10 of 12 on field goals (83.3%), but where he’s been struggling mightily is extra points, where he’s missed one in 3 straight games and 4 overall on the season. The Bucs’ Bryan Anger is having an average year as a punter, although this year he hasn’t gotten too many opportunities as the Bucs drives typically end in points or turnovers. The Panthers counter with Michael Palardy, who has a healthy 45.5 average and has placed 15 of his 28 punts inside the 20 yd line.

Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore handle the kick return duties, averaging about 20.9 yds between them, while Damiere Byrd splits with Moore on punt returns. Byrd has a solid 10.6 yd average with a long of 30.

Tampa Bay’s return game is once again nothing to write home about. Desean Jackson is the best punt return threat, having an 80 yd punt return for a touchdown called back against the Steelers, but Adam Humphries takes most of the returns, not doing much with it. Shaun Wilson and Jacquizz Rodgers handle kick returns, neither doing anything special with it.

Interesting Notes

  •  Cam Newton needs one rushing touchdown to become the first quarterback and 7th player in NFL history to have 5 or more rushing touchdowns a season for 7 consecutive years.
  • Despite his long NFL career, Ryan Fitzpatrick has only started one game against the Carolina Panthers, which he won as a member of the Buffalo Bills in 2009.
  • Cam Newton is 21-19 vs. the NFC South, but he’s 8-3 vs. the Buccaneers, winning 6 of his last 7 starts against Tampa Bay.
  • Jason Pierre Paul needs a sack Sunday to break the Bucs franchise record for consecutive games with a sack. He’s currently tied with Simeon Rice for the team record at 6.
  • Carolina owns the all-time series with Tampa Bay, leading 22-13, they have won the 3 of the last 5 meetings.
  • Carolina has won 4 of the last 5 meetings at home against Tampa Bay.

Prediction

The Bucs are hoping that the return of Fitzmagic will ignite them to a crucial victory over their hated division rivals, the Carolina Panthers. Make no mistake, the Bucs desperately need this game if they have any legitimate playoff hopes. In the jumbled NFC, 4-4 has you right smack dab in the race. At 3-5, it’s not looking very good, folks. A win in Carolina would go a long way, especially considering 5 of the Bucs’ last 8 games are at home with 4 games against teams with losing records. At 4-4, things could turn around rather quickly for the Bucs. At 3-5…the Bucs would need to go 7-1 or 6-2 to have a realistic shot at the playoffs and that’s a tall order against this schedule, folks, even with all the Fitzmagic in the world.

Bottom line, it’s a must win game. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, they face a red hot Panthers team that just kicked the living snot out of a good Baltimore team. Division games are a different animal and Carolina does have some big games coming up, it’s possible they could look past Tampa Bay, but not likely. As much as I’d love to pick the Bucs in this one, I think it’s a tough sell.

Panthers 38, Buccaneers 28

J.C. De La Torre

J.C. De La Torre

Want to give JC a piece of your mind? E-mail him at JC@whatthebuc.net JC De La Torre is formerly a columnist/blogger for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers blog site BucsNation.com where in 2016, he was nominated as best sportswriter in Tampa Bay by Creative Loafing. Previously, he served as a featured columnist for Bleacher Report on Tampa Bay sports, an editor and featured columnist for SB Nation Tampa Bay covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Gators, wrote for NFL.com’s Blog Blitz and contributed to Pewter Report, one of the top magazines on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. JC is also a filmmaker, comic writer and rabid Whovian.

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