As anyone who follows the NFL even casually knows, Sunday is not a gimme for the Carolina Panthers, even though they are 8-3 and Tampa Bay is 3-8.
This game looked like a six-inch putt a few weeks ago, but it has morphed into a 4-footer with a sidehill lie. The Panthers cant lose focus against the Bucs, who have won three in a row and nearly beat Seattle in Seattle, which was their most impressive accomplishment of all. A few game notes:
• The Panthers are going to have to rattle former N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon to win, but he is not easily rattled. Glennon has thrown just one interception in the past six games the lowest number of interceptions by any NFL quarterback over that period. Because he has thrown so few interceptions, Glennons quarterback rating is slightly higher than Cam Newtons (91.6 vs. 88.3).
Carolina is tied for third in the NFL with 15 interceptions already four more than the Panthers had in all of 2012 but were not able to pick off any of Glennons 51 throws in the teams first meeting Oct. 24.
• You better believe Newton will know where No. 54 is at all times Sunday. Thats Lavonte David, the Buccaneers most dynamic defender and the closest thing Tampa Bay has to Luke Kuechly. Like Kuechly, David is in his second season and very fun to watch.
• To quantify the Riverboat Ron nickname a little, check this out. Since the Week 2 loss to Buffalo, when Ron Rivera was burned by not going for the first down on fourth-and-1 in a loss to the Bills, he has gone for it seven times on fourth-and-1. Carolina has converted six out of seven, including a key one last week when the Panthers were down by 10 points and on their own 41. On the seventh, Brandon LaFell dropped an easy pass against Arizona.
I was on a radio show with former Panthers general manager Bill Polian earlier this week. Polian said he never would have gone for fourth-and-10 at his own 20 with 2:33 to go and trailing by three points, as Rivera did last week against Miami. He did go, the Panthers made it, and they ended up scoring the winning touchdown on the drive.
• I dont foresee an easy game on Sunday, but I do foresee the Panthers eighth straight win. My prediction: Carolina 24, Tampa Bay 17.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less