The Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face off on Thursday Night Football this week in a matchup that seems less-than-deserving of a primetime NFL slot on television. The Panthers will be trying to put themselves into the playoff race while the Bucs will be trying to avoid going one step closer to 0-16.
Coming into this contest, the Panthers have the clear advantage which both teams’ records reflect. Carolina has won three of their last four games and gotten their record to 3-3. Meanwhile Tampa Bay, as I said, is still searching for their first win of the season.
For the Bucs, really their only source of success this season has been on the ground handing the pigskin off to Doug Martin. Martin has been a workhorse for them season. He’s averaged only 3.6 yards per carry for the year, but much of that is due to poor offensive line play and not lack of performance on the part of the second-year running back.
However, Martin is out coming into this game after suffering a shoulder injury in week seven. The Bucs will be giving the majority of their carries to rookie running back Mike James, who hasn’t looked all that special in limited touches this season, which sets up perfectly for the Panthers run defense.
Through the first seven weeks of the season, the Panthers’ run defense has been the fourth best unit in the NFL, allowing just 84.5 yards per game on the ground. Moreover, they’ve only allowed two rushing touchdowns on the season.
If Carolina shuts down the Bucs’ running game led by James, it will allow their passing defense, which ranks fifth in the NFL, to feast on rookie quarterback Mike Glennon in this game. Though the Buccaneers could potentially surprise some people and James could show us unexpected, but I’d put my faith in the Panthers’ defense once again on Thursday.