Five fearless predictions for Sunday’s Carolina Panthers game at Tampa Bay:
1. Jacquizz Rodgers will have 8 carries ... on the first series
The Bucs fed Rodgers early and often during their Week 5 win at Charlotte. Rodgers carried 10 times on Tampa Bay’s opening possession, which produced a field goal. With Doug Martin suspended and headed to treatment after testing positive for Adderall and Charles Sims (pectoral) on injured reserve, Rodgers will be busy again Sunday. He won’t quite match his numbers (30 carries for 101 yards) from the first meeting, but he’ll approach them.
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2. Famous Jameis Winston will toss two TDs
The Panthers did a decent job of keeping Winston in check (18 of 30 for 219 yards and one touchdown) during Tampa Bay’s 17-14 victory in October. But the Panthers’ defense will be missing three starters, including injured edge rusher Charles Johnson. Winston needs one touchdown pass to move past Josh Freeman (27 in 2012) for the Bucs’ single-season record. He’ll throw two – both to 6-5, 231-pound wideout Mike Evans, who will be a tough cover for rookie CB James Bradberry.
3. Mario Addison will have a sack and a smile
Addison will continue his late-season surge that will boost his price tag in free agency. Addison, one of the Panthers’ most personable and energetic players, leads the team with 8.5 sacks. The defensive end has bunched seven sacks over the past six games, including one last week against Matt Ryan. Addison also had three tackles for loss against the Falcons. Addison will take Winston down once, add a couple of TFLs and – bonus prediction time – return to Carolina next season on a three-year deal.
4. Cam Newton will finish with a 49.5 completion percentage
It’s pretty clear Newton’s shoulder is bothering him worse than he’s let on. Last year’s MVP is locked in the worst passing funk of his career, having failed to complete 50 percent of his passes in five of the past six games. Newton missed the first game against the Bucs while in concussion protocol. Derek Anderson, who threw two interceptions in the loss, is out Sunday because of sickness. No. 3 QB and sometimes wideout Joe Webb will back up Newton, who will still manage a solid showing despite failing just short of 50 percent on his completions.
5. Graham Gano will kick the game-winner
This season started with Gano missing a 50-yard field goal that would have won the Super Bowl rematch at Denver. Not much has gone right since. But Gano will make sure the disappointing year at least ends on a positive note when he boots a game-winning FG – from 50 yards – against the Bucs. It’s been a rough week for the Panthers’ specialists after special teams advisor Bruce DeHaven died Tuesday after a lengthy battle with cancer. A Gano game-winner would be a great way to honor him. PANTHERS 20, BUCS 19.
Panthers at Bucs
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay
Sunday, 1 p.m.