Game Scout: Buccaneers at Panthers

Derek Harper, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8) at Carolina Panthers (8-3)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C. - TV: FOX
*TV announcers: Chris Myers, Tim Ryan, Jennifer Hale
*Keys to the game: The Panthers know this is a different Bucs team than the one Carolina plastered 31-13 in Tampa five weeks ago. Bucs rookie QB Mike Glennon has thrown only one interception in his past six games, and has displayed a big enough arm to stretch defenses and create running lanes for whomever has been healthy enough to line up in Tampa Bay's backfield. Question is, can RB Bobby Rainey gain any traction against Carolina's stout front seven? If so, the Panthers' secondary was exposed by the speed of Dolphins WR Mike Wallace last week and the Bucs boast one of the league's top deep threats in Vincent Jackson. Carolina's offense is ranked ninth in rushing, but QB Cam Newton has led the team in rushing each of the past two games. Tampa Bay can likely handle RBs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams without bringing a safety down, but the big task is limiting Newton on broken plays. His mobility is a big reason why the Panthers rank second in the NFL in converting third downs.
*Matchup to watch - Bucs WR Vincent Jackson vs. Panthers CB Captain Munnerlyn: Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has a bit off a dilemma in dealing with the 6-5 Jackson, who has 24 more receptions than anyone else on the Bucs. Munnerlyn is clearly the Panthers' top cover man, but gives up nine inches to Jackson. Rookie Melvin White has also been a popular target and could lose snaps to Josh Thomas.
*Player spotlight - Panthers DE Mario Addison: Expected to get his second consecutive start in place of Charles Johnson (knee), the Panthers' pass rush was clearly a notch less dangerous last week.
*Fast facts: Glennon is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass in each of his first eight games his rookie season. ... The Panthers have outscored opponents 123-41 in the second halves of their eight wins. They have posted second-half shutouts in four wins, including three times in their last four games.
Trap game for the Panthers? Potentially, with two massive matchups with New Orleans coming up. But Carolina knows Tampa Bay comes to town riding its own win streak and eager to play the role of spoiler.
*Our pick: Panthers 20-16

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