The Bucs will need to deal not only with Cam Newton's arm, but his legs as well. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
There aren't many teams in the NFL who have a worse defense than the Carolina Panthers, but thankfully this week we're facing one in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At the beginning of the season this looked like an incredibly tough defense on paper. With an up and coming DT like Gerald McCoy paired with Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers it seemed like they would be nasty group sooner rather than later. However a combination of injuries and unreliability has made the Bucs the NFL's 31st ranked defense. Currently the Bucs are:
- 31st in yards allowed (394.6)
- 29th in points allowed (26.5)
- 28th in pass yards allowed (291)
- 30th in rushing yards allowed (139.7)
This seems like the kind of game the Panthers can take advantage of on the offensive end, so let's break it down.
X-Factor: Cam Newton
Since the bye-week Cam hasn't been Cam... not the same Cam we saw at the beginning of the season anyway. His accuracy on long and intermediate routes has been mediocre at best, and he seems to be making worse decisions in the passing game while trying to do too much with his arm. Personally I think Newton is dealing with some arm fatigue now. At this point he's attempted over 100 passes more than he did last season at Auburn, and is it really a coincidence that the passing game had more and more deep routes taken away in the weeks since Newton had his MRI in the bye-week?
Regardless of whether Cam is hurting a little he's not hurting as much as the Bucs pass defense which is allowing almost 300 yards per game. Couple this with this prospect of Jonathan Stewart catching screens in the open field and stiff arms will happen. I think Cam can control the game this week.
Carolina run offense vs. Tampa Bay run defense
Last week the Bucs allowed 70 yards to Chris Johnson in the 4th quarter... yes, one quarter. With DeAngelo Williams emerging in the backfield in 2011 and Jonathan Stewart looking as dynamic as always in the end I think there's only one real result here.
Carolina pass offense vs. Tampa Bay pass defense
This could be a very good week for the Panthers passing attack as they face a group unable to stop opposing teams. Their inexperienced linebackers can, and will get eaten up by Shockey and Olsen on Sunday, and Steve Smith in 2011 is too much for their secondary to handle. It will all be about Cam's ability at getting the WRs the ball, and I'm not too worried about that.
Truth be told I hate previews that are one-sided because it looks so 'homer-centric' but when it comes to the Panthers offense against the Bucs defense there's only one way it really can go. Tomorrow I will look at the Panthers' defense, and rest assured it wont be quite so lop-sided with us on D.