Panthers vs. Bucs: Bold predictions
Five fearless predictions for Monday’s Carolina Panthers game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
1. The Panthers will fail to rush for 100 yards again.
The rushing attack has stalled without Jonathan Stewart, who will miss his third consecutive game with a hamstring injury. Carolina could always count on Cam Newton to boost the ground game, but offensive coordinator Mike Shula won’t be calling many zone-read plays for Derek Anderson. Even with three starting defensive linemen doubtful for Tampa Bay, Lavonte David leads a stout linebacker group.
2. Tampa Bay won’t get to the century mark, either.
Carolina is without its top back, but the Bucs are missing their top two. Doug Martin (hamstring) and Charles Sims (knee) are out, leaving Jacquizz Rodgers as the starting running back. Rodgers is a shifty runner with good speed, but he has only five starts in 71 career games. The Panthers need to stuff the run and make Tampa Bay one-dimensional.
3. Jameis Winston will throw two interceptions.
Winston is facing a secondary expected to feature three new starters from last week, but Winston has struggled with ball security, particularly against the Panthers. Carolina picked him off six times in two games last season, including one that Josh Norman returned for a touchdown. Moving Kurt Coleman to free safety puts the Panthers’ best ball-hawk in better position to come up with takeaways.
4. Winston will also throw deep at the Panthers’ corners.
The Panthers could be in trouble at corner after cutting one starter (Bené Benwikere) and losing another (James Bradberry) to injury for a week or two. Starting against the Bucs will be a rookie (Daryl Worley) making his first start and Robert McClain, who was out of football last season before the Panthers signed him in December. Like Matt Ryan last week, Winston will look to go deep to his tall wideout tandem of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans.
5. Anderson will do just enough.
The Bucs’ defense is beat up, with tackles Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald and end Robert Ayers doubtful. That should help the Panthers’ offensive line protect Anderson, who beat the Bucs twice in 2014 while filling in for an injured Newton. This is not the matchup ESPN envisioned for Monday Night Football, but it should be a close game between two struggling teams. Ultimately, Anderson will avoid turnovers and make a couple of key throws to tight end Greg Olsen, and punter Andy Lee will swing field position in the Panthers’ favor. Panthers 24, Bucs 17.
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
When: Monday, 8:30 p.m.