The Carolina Panthers have been resurgent since going 0-2 to start the season, going 3-1 over the past four games and dominating in their wins, due in no small part to an increasingly ferocious defense. The Panthers’ defense ranks in the top five in most of the major statistical categories, including second in scoring defense at 13.8 points per game. Every level of the defense has played at an exceptional level, from the front four filling the gaps to the linebackers swarming to the ball carrier to the oft-injured secondary that has played well above their potential, the Panthers have developed a championship quality defense.
The defense is riding a lot of momentum coming into their Thursday night showdown with the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose offense has been decimated by injuries and internal strife. The Buccaneers no longer have a powerful offense led by a once savvy and clutch Josh Freeman and driven by young sensation Doug Martin behind a talented offensive line. Martin is possibly out for the year with a torn labrum and Josh Freeman was cut after posting Jamarcus Russell-like numbers, ushering in the era of Mike Glennon.
While the Bucs still have some strength left in their offensive line, their stars up front, Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks, have been injured much of the season, and Nicks will most definitely be out on Thursday. The Panthers’ defensive line will surely wreak havoc on the two Mikes, Mike Glennon and Mike James, with James being stifled by a weak offensive interior and Glennon having few options to throw to outside of big Vincent Jackson, who the Panthers will double most of the game with Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Mitchell if they are smart. The defense may be able to improve on their already impressive statistics and may help them make a case of being a playoff contender.