Carolina Panthers (3-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6)
Thursday Oct 24 at 8:30 pm ET on NFLN
Carolina favored by 6
Over/Under 40½

The Carolina Panthers travel to Tampa looking to go over .500 for the first time since 2008, while the Buccaneers seek to get the monkey off their back with their first win of the season. Tampa Bay will have a completely different backfield compared to when the season began: Mike Glennon gets his third start in place of the departed Josh Freeman at quarterback, and after Doug Martin suffered a torn labrum last week, rookie Mike James gets his first start at running back. Martin was a 6th round draft pick out of Miami, where he backed up Lamar Miller until his senior year, rushing for 621 yards and adding another 344 yards on 30 receptions. The Bucs also have journeyman Brian Leonard, but neither will be as productive as Martin was.

That means Tampa Bay will need to lean more heavily on the Glennon and his receivers. The rookie quarterback seems to be locked on to WR Vincent Jackson, throwing 36 passes his way in the last two games. VJax came down with just over 50% of those attempts (19) for 252 yards and two touchdowns in those contests, and now has 36 receptions for 544 yards and 4 TD on the season. It would be most helpful to the Bucs if WR Mike Williams is fully healthy. After missing the game two weeks ago against Philadelphia, Williams returned last week but was clearly not 100%; he finished with four catches for 32 yards at Atlanta.

Carolina has made a conscious decision to focus on getting younger and better with their front seven on defense, and it is paying off. Two years they allowed 27 points per game, which ranked 27th in the NFL. A year ago the Panthers drafted LB Luke Kuechly, and all he was lights out, winning the Defensive Rookie Of The Year. This year Carolina double dipped on defensive tackles, selecting Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short in the first two rounds. On Sunday the Rams schemed to negate Kuechly, which they were able to do – but all that did was allow for others to make plays. The Carolina defensive tackles (Lotulelei, Short, and Colin Cole) combined for 11 tackles and five tackles for a loss, and the Panthers forced three turnovers while limiting the Rams to 3.0 yards per rush. The only breakdown for the defense was a 73 yard completion to Brain Quick; the Panthers have now held their opponents to 15 points or less in four games this season.

Offensively Carolina has been hot and cold this year: twice they have been held to no more than seven points, and three times they have scored 30 or more. Against the Bucs they just have to minimize their mistakes, which they have been able to do for the most part this season. The Panthers have only turned the ball over nine times this year (tied for 8th-best), and have a turnover differential of plus-five (tied for 6th-best). Since throwing three picks at Arizona, Cam Newton has rebounded by going 35/43 for 446 yards, 4 passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, and – most importantly – no interceptions.

For Bucs head coach Greg Schiano time may be running out. The Bucs have now lost 11 of their last 12 games, with the only victory coming in a week 17 game that meant nothing to the Falcons. If the Bucs lose as expected on national television, the Glazers may feel that with ten days until the next game that this would be the right time to let Dave Wannstedt take over on an interim basis for the remainder of the season.

Carolina Panthers Offense
23.2 Points per Game (15th)
328 Yards per Game (23rd)
9 Turnovers (T-8th)
3.9 Yards per Rush (17th)
7.8 Yards per Pass (7th)

Carolina Panthers Defense
13.8 Points per Game (2nd)
302 Yards per Game (3rd)
14 Turnovers (8th)
3.7 Yards per Rush (8th)
7.0 Yards per Pass (11th)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense
14.5 Points per Game (31st)
298 Yards per Game (31st)
10 Turnovers (T-12th)
3.8 Yards per Rush (19th)
5.8 Yards per Pass (32nd)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense
22.0 Points per Game (T-13th)
341 Yards per Game (13th)
10 Turnovers (T-18th)
3.5 Yards per Rush (4th)
7.5 Yards per Pass (22nd)


Pick • Panthers 24, Buccaneers 10
Panthers -6 (three units)
Under 40½ (one unit)



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