If and when the Carolina Panthers pull off a third straight win Sunday without Luke Kuechly, that will be something to admire.
Kuechly, the Panthers’ leading tackler and best defensive player in just about every game he plays, will sit out his third straight game Sunday because of a concussion suffered Sept. 13. He will then get a bye week to rest further before Carolina returns to action Oct. 18 at Seattle.
I don’t think there is any way the Panthers could beat old nemesis Seattle without Kuechly on the field – that is an “all hands on deck” sort of game. But certainly they have a good shot at getting by Tampa Bay. Kuechly’s injury came at a good time, relatively speaking – during the weakest month of the Panthers’ schedule.
You have to wonder about the severity of Kuechly’s concussion-related symptoms, however, given the time this is taking. I am glad the NFL’s concussion protocol is in place, because it takes a lot of the decision-making out of teams’ and players’ hands. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready, no matter how much everyone wants you to be.
Panthers fans must be patient, too. Kuechly will be around for years, and everyone at Bank of America Stadium is trying very hard to not let this become another “Dan Morgan” type of situation. Morgan was once a superb inside linebacker, too – although he never was at Kuechly’s level – but multiple concussions ruined his career.
▪ If Tampa Bay gets to Carolina’s 40, the Buccaneers are in field-goal range. Rookie kicker Kyle Brindza knocked in a 58-yarder last week. Brindza is wildly inconsistent, though – he also missed from 41, 33 and 57 yards a week ago, and missed his lone extra-point attempt.
▪ It’s odd to think, but the Bucs haven’t faced Cam Newton in nearly two years. Newton missed both games against Tampa Bay last season – one because of a car wreck, one because of a football injury. Derek Anderson won both starts for Carolina, giving the Panthers four straight wins in the series.
▪ Prediction time: I have picked the Panthers to win every game so far this season, so we are both 3-0 at the moment. No need to mess with success. My pick: Carolina 23, Tampa Bay 16.
Fowler: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @scott_fowler