The Carolina Panthers continue their tour of the NFL’s worst teams on Thursday night – a fortuitous bit of scheduling that could only be luckier if the Panthers next played Jacksonville.
Alas, they don’t have the Jaguars on their schedule. But there are only three other NFL teams at the moment who have won one game or less in 2013. The Panthers have already played two of them – the New York Giants and Minnesota – and they get Tampa Bay twice, starting Thursday night in Florida.
So this should be easy, right? The Buccaneers are 0-6. Carolina is 3-3 but has won three of its past four and has one of the NFL’s top defenses.
Well, no. I don’t think it will be that easy.
The Bucs are going to beat somebody this season – the Panthers just can’t let it be them. Tampa Bay has a few things going for it, including rookie quarterback Mike Glennon and wide receiver Vincent Jackson.
Glennon threw at Jackson 22 times last week and 14 the week before. Four of those throws went for touchdowns.
If the Panthers don’t double Jackson on most every play Thursday night, they are nuts. Jackson, if you remember, was also the guy who made the great touchdown catch that helped the Bucs come back from 11 points down in the final 4:03 in 2012 in Charlotte to tie the game in regulation and win it 27-21 in overtime.
• When Carolina runs plays inside the Tampa Bay 5, don’t be surprised to see a fake to Mike Tolbert and then a play-action pass. Tampa Bay has proved its mettle on goal-line run defense. The Bucs have only given up one rushing touchdown all season, tied for the best in the NFL with Baltimore.
• I’ve been to almost all of the NFL stadiums and I can tell you that Tampa Bay’s homefield “advantage” is among the league’s absolute worst at the moment. Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano is only 3-8 at home, although one of those wins was against Carolina in 2012 (the Bucs swept the Panthers last year).
• When you watch the NFL Network telecast Thursday, see what you think about TV analyst Mike Mayock. He’s wordy, but I like him. His depth and breadth of knowledge about the sport is impressive.
• Glennon basically does two things when he drops back – he either throws the ball to Jackson or he dumps it short. There are a whole lot of quick checkdowns in the former N.C. State quarterback’s repertoire, and there will be a few chances for the Panthers in pass coverage to jump one of those routes and grab an interception.
• I’ve correctly predicted the Panthers’ outcome four weeks in a row. To go for five straight, my pick is: Carolina 30, Tampa Bay 17.