These two NFC South foes met back in week one in what was a sloppy contest down in Tampa; the Buccaneers topping the Panthers 16-10.
Despite the poor play back in September, when it looked like either club was destined for mediocrity, the Buccaneers have set out to grind through the regular season under new head coach Greg Schiano, while the Panthers have fallen submissive to early frustration.
It’s safe to say that these two teams have been headed in opposite directions ever since their first meeting a few months back.
Carolina is coming off a disappointing 36-14 loss at home to the Denver Broncos, a matchup the Panthers offense as a whole forgot to show up for. The Panthers gave up seven sacks and failed to establish any kind of running attack against Denver, all while managing to squash any lingering optimism the team might have obtained in their week nine win.
The loss ultimately forced the Panthers to fire special teams coordinator Brian Murphy and sign guard Jeremy Bridges to perhaps vie for a starting spot on the offensive line after their horrid outing against Denver.
On the flipside, Tampa Bay is positioned nicely for a second half playoff run and riding high with a three-game winning streak coming into week 11. They should be feeling good because at this point it seems like a four-game winning streak is almost a given in their near future.
Though, this is a matchup between division rivals, meaning nothing is a given. However, for the Panthers it starts with forgetting about last week’s loss.
Look for the Buccaneers to keep it rather simple on Sunday. They love the production they are getting out of rookie running back Doug Martin, the same rookie that rushed for 95-yards in week one against the Panthers and who sits on the cusp of becoming a 1,000 yard rusher this season. Tampa Bay must also love the performance from their offensive line and their ability to make life a little easier for quarterback Josh Freeman.
Both Freeman and Carolina’s Cam Newton will be expected to perform big as always by their respective clubs, something neither one of them did in week one.
Look for this contest to be yet another shoddy show in the end. A low scoring affair that just feels like it could be a Panthers’ victory.
Carolina is certainly battling demons headed into Sunday’s showdown with the Buccaneers. A win could help ease those demons and perhaps give the team one small shot at making a charge toward the finish. Or maybe Carolina should just hope no one loses their job come Monday morning.
Robert Kester, Carolina Panthers Columnist. Contact @robertkester1