Do you trust Bucs to handle Carolina?

by Gary Shelton on January 6, 2024

in general

Mayfield will play with sore rIbs./TIM WIRT

Saturday, 4 a.m.

This feels bad. It smells bad. From here, you can see disappointment.

So can the Bucs manage to beat a team that almost everyone else has? Can they hang around until Carolina realizes what a mess it is, and then pull out the NFC South title? Can a weak pass rush and a weak secondary manage to overcome a weak quarterback?

We’ll see.

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The Bucs can clinch a title if they win today. On the other hand, they could have clinched a title last week, and they spent the entire afternoon getting plowed under by New Orleans. Now, they have to go on the road to beat a Carolina team that has won only twice. On the other hand, Carolina barely lost to the Bucs when they played in Tampa, so who knows?

After all we have seen of this Bucs team, it is hard to be confident.  After all, the Panthers have beaten New Orleans and Atlanta, and both of them split with the Bucs. They don’t throw very well, but the Bucs don’t rush well and they don’t cover well. 

So who wins?

It’s a poser. Half of the time you think of the Bucs as overachievers. The other half you’re convinced they’re underachievers. Is Baker Mayfield the answer, or is he forever in that second (or third) level of quarterbacks? Should Todd Bowles be retained, or retrained?

By now, you know all of the Bucs’ flaws. But Carolina has more. They’ve played 11 games where they scored fewer than 17 points.

Still, Carolina is third in the league in overall defense and third in rushing defense.  That, and the home field advantage, should be enough to keep the score close. So do like Mayfield in the fourth quarter?

I guess I kinda do. I see a game where Carolina takes a first-half lead, but the Bucs come back and tie to force overtime. Chase McLaughlin wins it on a kick.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 23, Carolina 20 (overtime).

In other NFL games:

New Orleans 24, Atlanta 14.

Green Bay 24, Chicago 17.

San Franciso 31, Ł.A. Rams 21.

Buffalo 27, Miami 21.

Dallas 39, Washington 7.

And in the college title game:

Michigan 28, Washington 23.

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