I don't know about the rest of you, but it's going to be interesting to try and fit in a Panthers game during x-mas eve. Thankfully I think I can use wrapping presents as a convenient cover for me to get in the game before kicking off all the festivities. A win over the Bucs would be a nice present, and I think it's one that's easily attainable.
As I mentioned on CSR Radio this week I really do feel for Bucs fans. It seemed they were so close after last season, and now thanks to a coaching collapse and a QB regression it seems unsure what their plans are in the future. Whoever takes over that team will need to do a lot of work to get Josh Freeman to regain his confidence and work out a clear path for their football team because right now they have no identity and it's hurt them.
For now though it's not about crying over another team's spilt milk, it's about seeing what the Panthers can do on Sunday.
X-Factor: Cam Newton
As he's been for much of the season Cam Newton is our x-factor. We've seen Newton show all the physical tools you want from a QB, and last week we saw all the mental ones. This is the week I think we see those converge and I don't think Tampa Bay are ready for it.
The last time Newton faced the Bucs he was efficient as a passer, completing 57.1% of his passes for a 9.71 YPA and scored a total of four touchdowns. It's funny because the other day a fan asked me whether he should start Cam Newton or Aaron Rodgers this week in his fantasy league, and after thinking about it I came to the conclusion it was a hung jury. This week Cam breaks the rookie passing record and does so comfortably.
Carolina run offense Vs. Tampa Bay run defense
The Buccaneers are still the prime candidates for more Jonathan Stewart GIF-eration as it seems every time he plays the Bucs he winds up stiff arming someone into next week. Moreover Tampa's run defense has been terrible and the Panthers can take advantage, whether it's Double Trouble or Cam running the ball they don't have the ability to stuff the run and Carolina could be in for a big day on the ground.
Carolina pass offense Vs. Tampa Bay pass defense
Here again the Panthers can dominate. The Bucs didn't face the Panthers with Brandon LaFell in the starting lineup, and his addition alone causes match-up problems on the edge. Steve Smith is prepped to have a big game and I think he'll finish with over 1,400 receiving yards on the season (he needs 101 yards more).
There's good reason every man and his dog are mocking CBs to the Bucs in 2012, they need help.. badly. Currently ranked 26th in yards allowed they're also allowing a mammoth 8.2 yards per attempt, 3rd in the NFL. Newton should be able to get his deep ball going and when that happens it will all be over.
Tomorrow I'll look at our up-and-down defense to determine how we'll fair against Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount