While the Panthers were able to manhandle the Buccaneers both times during the 2011 season, those were two games that the Buccaneers easily could have won. If you know anything about the history between the Panthers and Buccaneers, you know their fans don’t really like each other. Some would call it a little bit of a rivalry.
While the Buccaneers defense has been getting older, they decided to change that up this season. They drafted safety Mark Barron, who is a great addition and will add some depth to their roster.
One of the things the Panthers have been able to succeed doing against the Buccaneers is running the ball. The Panthers usually depend on their running back Jonathan Stewart to handle the ground game.
The Buccaneers will have Doug Martin starting at running back, while LeGarrette Blount will be the number two. While Blount has had success, he’s also injury prone and didn’t prove himself the way the Buccaneers had hoped during preseason. If Stewart is ready to go for this game, then the edge will go to the Panthers for the running game. The only way the Buccaneers will have a chance in this game is if Martin does well.
Let’s take a look at the quarterbacks for this game. On one hand, you have Josh Freeman, who no one ever knows which side of him will show up to play. Most hailed Freeman for his 2010 performance with the Buccaneers. He had one of the best touchdown to interception ratios in the NFL. Then, last season he looked awful. It’s obvious that Freeman has to be the leader of this team, because they will only go as far as he takes them.
Cam Newton had one of the best rookie seasons as a quarterback that some of us have ever witnessed. This season will be the true test for him. During this game, knowing that the Buccaneers have a younger defense, he is going to test that. Last season he was able to throw for three touchdowns in the first game against the Buccaneers and I don’t see that changing. Again, I will give the Panthers the edge simply because Newton is a beast of nature.
You can sit through tape on these teams and analyze both sides of the ball all night. In the end, the Panthers will still come out on top. While the Buccaneers are getting stronger at their positions, I don’t think it will be enough to overcome the Panthers. The Panthers haven’t had problems with the Buccaneers in the past so I don’t think that will start now. That Buccaneers defense won’t be able to handle the complex offense that the Panthers will throw their way. We all need to see more of what the Buccaneers have to offer before we give them any wins. After that collapse last season, the proof will be in the pudding this year.
Final Score: Carolina Panthers 27-10 Tampa Bay Buccanners