What To Watch For: Buccaneers vs Panthers

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It was a disappointing loss for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their most recent game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was an opportunity to play one of the worst teams in the NFL, and an opponent that was absolutely beat up on the injury report. This was a game the Bucs had no excuse to lose.

However, the Bucs will get a second chance this week as they play a team that is basically the same opponent. The Carolina Panthers are essentially just as bad and are currently in a free fall after firing their coach last week. On top of that, they just traded their best player in Christian McCaffery.

This isn’t a must win game for the Bucs, but it certainly feels like it. If Tampa Bay can’t right the ship this week then it will officially be time to hit the panic button. Here’s how they can avoid the same trap as last week.

Byron Leftwich vs Himself 

The biggest issue with this team right now is the offense. This is a direct reflection of the coaching, specifically offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. He has been a comedy of errors this season and last week it was too much to overcome.

It hasn’t just been the play calling and the commitment to running the ball in predictable situations. Nor has it just been conservative game plans. This has been a failure at every conceivable level.

The most egregious offense has been what he’s doing with his offensive line. Whether it’s matching up his rookie guard vs All Pros with no help or not playing to the strengths of their talent, Leftwich has done very little right here.

This needs to be corrected immediately. There is so much that’s going wrong it’s hard to imagine that something won’t be fixed. But if we see the same game plan and play calling that was on display last week then it’s going to be another long day.

Buccaneers Offensive Line vs Panthers Defensive Line

It has been a parade of great defensive tackles in recent weeks. From Chris Jones, to Cam Heyward to Kenny Clark, these are some of the very best in the league. That won’t be the case this week.

Derrick Brown is a good young nose tackle. He’s very powerful and should make things difficult in the running game. With that said, he’s not much of a pass rusher.

This needs to be a bounce back game for Luke Goedeke and the interior offensive line. All three starters have had their share of struggles this season. This is the type of game that you’d expect them to control.

On the outside you can look for Brian Burns of the edge. He’s the flexible pass rusher that can disrupt the entire game. Tristian Wirfs and Donovan Smith have to bring their A games to keep Burns in check.

PJ Walker vs Bucs Front Seven

Sometimes you have to play against bad quarterbacks. Other times you have to play against the backup to the backup of a bad quarterback. This is one of those times.

PJ Walker is the third string quarterback on the depth chart behind Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. Obviously, this isn’t ideal for any offense. It makes for a great advantage for the Buccaneers defense.

This could, and really should, mean a barrage of interceptions and sacks for the defense. Look for the stars like Antoine Winfield Jr and Shaq Barrett to shine in this game. Even more so than the expectation was last week against Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky in Pittsburgh.

Overall

The Panthers aren’t a good football team. They have some talent, but they are disorganized, banged up and have no direction. This is a game the Buccaneers should win and win comfortably.

The only thing that scares me is the Buccaneers potentially getting in their own way. If Leftwich continues to bang his head against the wall and fails to make adjustments or common sense choices then we could see a repeat of last week. 

At this point, I expect the defense to continue to dominate and the offense continue to struggle until proven otherwise. 

Prediction

Buccaneers – 23
Panthers – 6

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