The Buccaneers are following the hardest game of their schedule (at New Orleans) with possibly their easiest, a visit from the rebuilding Panthers. And while the Panthers are indeed in the process of remaking the team under owner David Tepper and coach Matt Rhule, they seem to be a lot closer to being competitive than expected.
While it’s possible that the Raiders simply aren’t very good, either, Carolina gave Las Vegas a close, tough, and exciting game in Week One.
Most encouraging for the Panthers? Their ability to turn a 27-17 fourth-quarter deficit into a 30-27 lead, capped by a 75-yard catch and run on a Robby Anderson double move that left Raiders first-round cornerback Damon Arnette in the dust, and that was punctuated by safety Erik Harris taking a bad angle as he tried to break up the pass and/or make the tackle.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, there was more game left to play. The Carolina defense let the Las Vegas offense embark on a nine-play, 75-yard drive, ending with Josh Jacobs‘ third touchdown run of the day.
But the Panthers weren’t done, driving the ball into Raiders territory before opting on fourth and short to not give the ball to the player to whom they’re paying $16 million per year.
Again, no team ever knows based on Week One whether its good or bad because the quality of the opponent won’t be determined until more games are played. But unless the Raiders are destined to be the doormats of the AFC West, the Panthers have every reason to believe they can compete. And the Buccaneers have every reason to be wary this weekend.