Bucs hope to bounce back to sweep Panthers

by Gary Shelton on November 14, 2020

in general

Gronkowski hopes for a big day./ TIM WIRT

Saturday, 4 a.m.

Sometimes, the wind blows the other direction.

Sometimes, the coin lands on the opposite side.

Some days you win. Some days you lose.

And so it goes in pro football. Just because a team won in September doesn't mean it will win in November. Just because Leonard Fournette had his best game of the year back then doesn't mean it will happen again. Just because that game started out 21-0 doesn't mean the Bucs have any kind of edge as this one starts.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the GarySheltonSports.com blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on GarySheltonSports.com.

In the Bucs-Panthers series, the teams often split the regular season. Since they began twice-a-year play in 2002, it's happened six times. The team that won the first game lost the second, and vice versa.

And so it is that the Panthers -- despite their record -- are playing decent football, and the Bucs -- despite their start --- are not, which makes this seem to be an either-or proposition.

Can the Bucs slow down Teddy Bridgewater, who threw for 367 yards the first time the two met (although he had two interceptions)? Can the Bucs' running game, which had 122 yards rushing, including 103 by Fournette, finally get going again?

Or will the team's problems continue?

“I don’t know if there’s that big of an advantage," said Bucs' coach Bruce Arians, asked if the team that won the first game had an advantage in the second. "Obviously, you should have confidence. I think the other team usually has vengeance on their mind. Going into the game, I think the team that won the first one has a little more confidence going into the second one. A lot of times home-field advantage matters on the second one [but] this year [it does] not because of no crowds. This year’s different on everything. I think maybe you do (have more confidence) when you win.”

The Bucs, of course, are trying not to lose their second straight game (it would be their third straight subpar game).

“I think we have great leadership, and when you have really good leadership, very seldom will you ever lose two in a row," said Arians. "We’ve always preached that to our guys. This week of practice has been outstanding – just as when we won our last ballgame. The one thing I can never complain about is our guys’ work ethic. (Their) attention to detail has been outstanding. I would anticipate them to bounce back pretty good.”

Arians was asked about the team's problems on third down.

“I think most of it is match-up stuff," Arians said. "If you leave two tight ends out there, do they stay in base or do they still go nickel? If they go to nickel, you don’t really have a matchup that you’re looking for. Is our fourth wide receiver a better matchup than their fifth or sixth corner? Then you look for those matchups. But, we’ve got to do a better job of protecting and completing balls.”

The Panthers are expected to play without star running back Christian McCaffrey, who was hurt in the first game between the teams. That leaves much of the attack up to Bridgewater and his own receiving corps (Curtis Samuel, Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore).

“As a threesome – when you throw that third one in there – they’re really, really good," Arians said. "The thing about it (is) Robby can go over the top, but Robby’s become a really good runner after the catch guy. The other two break tackles and Samuel is like a running back. They’ve got a hell of a trio.”

Can the Bucs' secondary, which has been leaky lately, counter that? The Bucs had five sacks in their first game against Carolina.

Prediction: With McCaffery out, the Panthers seem to be one-dimensional. That should help the Bucs win a close one. Tampa Bay 23, Carolina 21.

Elsewhere in the NFL:

Buffalo over Arizona.

New Orleans over San Francisco.

Baltimore over New England.

In the college game:

Florida over Arkansas

Miami over Virginia Tech.

Houston over South Florida.

N.C. State over FSU.

Previous post:

Next post: