Bucs’ leftovers should be able to beat Carolina

by Gary Shelton on December 26, 2021

in general

Ronald Jones II looks for a big game./TIM WIRT

Sudday, 4 a.m.

Benning Potoa’e, say hello to Sterling Hofrichter.

Kenyon Barner, meet Cyril Grayson.

Fans of the Tampa Bay Bucs, say hello to your new backups.

If you best want to evaluate the condition of. the limping Tampa Bay Bucs, perhaps the best way is to consider the new faces on the team's roster. The Bucs, inches away from the NFC South Division title, are suddenly relying -- in part -- on journeymen and others who once would have been considered borderline players.

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It's a new take on the team's "next man up" philosophy. The Bucs will enter Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers without Chris Godwin, without Mike Evans, without Leonard Fournette, without Jason Pierre-Paul and without Antoine Winfield. True, the Panthers don't measure up to the Bucs in talent; but how do they measure up against what is left?

Instead, playing key roles will be newcomer La'Veon Bell, re-instated receiver Antonio Brown, rookie defensive end Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, re-instanted defensive back Mike Edwards, running back Barner, receiver Grayson, defensive tackle Potoa'e, and punter Hofrichter, receiver Scotty Miller, receiver Tyler Johnson and others. It will make the Bucs' contest against the Panthers a little harder to negotiate, especially on the road.

Can the Bucs pull it off? Maybe. They still have Tom Brady at quarterback and a line with three Pro Bowlers. They have inebackers Devin White and Lavonte David and defensive end Shaq Barrett. There should be enough talent left to beat a five-win Panther team.

Oh, you know the drill by now. The Bucs' defense will give up big plays, and they'll miss tackles, and the offense will go into funks that will frustrate their fans.

At the end of the day, however, the Bucs should win. Maybe Brown will catch a touchdown pass. Maybe Ronald Jones will have a good day. Maybe Cam Newton will show why he's no longer an MVP candidate.

But it says here the Bucs should win.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 23, Carolina 17.

In other NFL games:

Cincinnati 27, Baltimore 21.

Buffalo 24, New England 14.

Dallas 30, Washington 17.

Kansas City 34, Pittsburgh 20.

Miami 21, New Orleans 17.

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