On Sunday, one nutty Carolina Panthers streak is about to end.
It is really hard to imagine that this Carolina defense – ranked in the top three in the NFL in both fewest yards allowed and most sacks accomplished – have gone oh-for-October as far as interceptions go. In fact, the Panthers haven’t had a pick since Week 1, when Luke Kuechly got one against Brian Hoyer and San Francisco. Since then, Carolina has gone six straight games without an interception, which is easily the longest such streak in Panthers history.
What accounts for this? Well, the Panthers secondary was not a strong suit to begin with and has been hurt by safety Kurt Coleman’s knee injury. Cornerback James Bradberry is playing at a high level in pass coverage, but that high level has not included any interceptions. Most of the players in the Panthers secondary really haven’t gotten close enough to the ball to get the sort of fortunate tipped-ball interception that Chicago capitalized on last week.
But that streak ends this week, I believe. Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston leads a strong attack that is No. 2 in the NFL in yardage, but he has also thrown seven interceptions in four career games against Carolina. Winston will take some risks and I think he throws another one Sunday, with Carolina’s defense closer to full strength than it has been in several weeks.
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▪ The Panthers certainly make their share of mistakes on the field, but not many of them draw flags. Carolina has had the fewest accepted penalties in the NFL this season, with only 29 through seven games. Washington (33) has the second-fewest.
The most-flagged Panthers? On offense, Cam Newton has four delay-of-game penalties (although one was declined). On defense, cornerback Daryl Worley has been called three times for pass interference and once for defensive holding (two of the flags were declined).
▪ One player I really enjoy watching for is linebacker Lavonte David. He is the Buccaneers’ version of Kuechly and seems to be around the ball constantly. David has forced three fumbles in his past two games.
▪ Prediction time. I am now 4-3 predicting Carolina games after missing last week vs. Chicago. That record is nothing to brag about, for either me or the Panthers (also 4-3 at the moment). I will try to avoid the .500 mark this week with this pick as I count on Carolina’s offense to start finding its way back toward the end zone: Carolina 22, Tampa Bay 20.
Fowler: 704-358-5140; Twitter: @scott_fowler