NFL Week 5 Preview: Carolina vs. Tampa Bay
The Panthers return to Bank of America Stadium on Monday night against Tampa Bay after being embarrassed by the Falcons on last Sunday. Through four games Carolina has looked completely out of sync on both sides of the ball, and it’s getting worse every week. Tampa Bay comes into the game playing just as poorly as Carolina with a 1-3 record as well. Both squads have key injuries on both sides of the ball that should work in each team’s favor. Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy is unlikely to play which is good news for the Panthers and their struggling, dirtbag offensive line. Tampa Bay’s RB Doug Martin is also out which is a plus for a Panthers defense that can use all the help it can get. Cam Newton is unlikely to play due to a concussion and rookie corner James Bradberry is also out for an already broken Panthers secondary. Despite the horrible start for both teams, only two games separate them from Atlanta in the division. With a lot of football left to play this season, both teams will be looking to right the ship with a win on Monday.
Do or Die For Carolina
The Panthers have to win on Monday if they want any chance at winning their fourth straight division title. Despite the possibility of falling to 1-4 on the horizon, there is reason for optimism heading into Monday even with Newton not expecting to play. That reason is backup QB Derek Anderson, who looked surprisingly sharp against the Falcons. The offense struggled the whole game but looked completely different with Anderson under center. He got the Panthers deficit down to 8 points, leading them to touchdowns on two consecutive drives. Most importantly, Anderson andhis quick release wasted no time getting rid of the football. With an offensive line that is playing as bad as any in the NFL, Anderson will need to continue that on Monday. Jonathan Stewart has been back on the practice field and he may get the starting nod on Monday. Fozzy Whitaker and Artis-Payne haven’t been able to replace Stewart’s impact so his return is huge for the offense because the ground game was Anderson’s security blanket in his two wins against Tampa Bay during the 2014 season. Hopefully with Stewart back, the Panthers offense can pick up where it left off in the 4th quarter against Atlanta.
Carolina’s defense has looked nothing like the one Panthers fans have been accustomed to seeing over the past four seasons. We expected the secondary to struggle but the d-line just hasn’t been able to get to the quarterback like it has in the past. A positive for Carolina’s defense is that Jameis Winston has turned the ball over more than any quarterback not named Fitzpatrick. With Doug Martin out, the Bucs running game should be mediocre at best so Winston will be airing it out, frequently to his favorite target Mike Evans, for most of the game. Jameis already has 8 INTs on the season, so the Panthers defense, especially S Kurt Coleman, has to take advantage when Winston makes mistakes and add on to that total. Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans isn’t Julio Jones but he can be just as lethal if Jameis has time to find holes in the secondary of that zone defense. There wasn’t any help over the top from Carolina’s safeties against Atlanta and if the same occurs on Monday, Mike Evan’s fantasy owners and Bucs fans will have reason to celebrate.
Prediction: Both of these teams stink at the moment, therefore the Panthers should be the favorites even if Cam Newton doesn’t play since the game is in Carolina. However, that secondary hasn’t given me any reason to believe it will be any better this week. I’ve been wrong on 3 of my 4 predictions so far this season and for my Panthers sake I hope that trend continues.
Final Score: Buccaneers 27-24