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Panthers Look to End Skid

Sharon Thorsland
November 30, 2018 - 3:57 pm

It's been a rough few weeks for the Panthers, who have lost three in a row after last Sunday's last-second loss to the Seahawks. Things don't get any easier this week when they travel to Tampa Bay to take on their division rival. The Bucs might be just 4-7 on the season, but they are dangerous. They have an extremely potent offense and a bunch of Pro Bowlers on a defense that has been playing better of late. They're coming off an impressive 27-9 rout of the 49ers.

The Bucs continue to boast the NFL's number one ranked offense, averaging over 450 yards and 27 points per game. That's in spite of flip-flopping quarterbacks all season. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and former number one draft pick Jameis Winston have both racked up plenty of yards but they've also turned the ball over way too much – Fitzpatrick has thrown 12 interceptions, while “Famous Jameis” has 11 picks in just six games. It looks like Winston will be back under center this week, but no matter who is running the offense, the Panthers secondary will face a challenge – the Bucs have plenty of weapons on offense, starting with superstar receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. The pair have combined for over ?? yards and 9 touchdowns. Former Clemson standout Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin are also in the mix, they've combined for 90 catches and 8 touchdowns. Tight end OJ Howard landed on I-R last month but they've still got Cameron Brate, he has three scores.

The Bucs are having a hard time running the ball, picking up just 98 yards a game. But they've got a talented back in Peyton Barber, he has 590 yards and three touchdowns. Of course, he'll be facing a Panther rush defense that has been pretty darn good, they're 6th in the NFL allowing just 96 yards a contest.

As good as the Bucs offense is, the defense continues to be at the other end of the spectrum. They rank in the bottom of the league in almost every defensive category, but they are showing signs of improvement – they've held three straight opponents under 200 passing yards, thanks in large part to the defensive line that is once again healthy and turning up the pressure. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is a beast, he's got 10.5 sacks. He teams with Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy up front, with All-Pro Lavonte David anchoring the linebackers. The Bucs secondary has been hit hard by injuries, with four starters out, including two on I-R. But safety Justin Evans should be back in the lineup Sunday, and cornerback Brent Grimes is a proven veteran.​

The Bucs couldn't stop the Panthers offense the last time out, with the Panthers racking up 42 points in a week nine win. They've won nine of the last 11 matchups against their division rival - and need to win this one in a big way. “We haven't been playing well the last couple of weeks, but we know what time it is – it's crunch time for us,” said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. “We gotta come in here and be ready to roll.”

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