The Tampa Bay Buccaneers(3-4) are desperately in win-now mode as they travel to Carolina to face the Panthers (5-2) in an NFC South showdown.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have named Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starter after Jameis Winston struggled to match his effectiveness and his magic. Fitzpatrick rallied the Bucs back from an 18 point second half deficit to tie the Bengals after Winston’s benching. He tied the game up at 34-34 with one minute and five left before the Bengals won it on a field goal.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost four of there last five and Carolina has won four of their last five. Carolina’s defense is stout versus the run and pass, but the move back to Fitzpatrick seems to give the Buccaneers the best chance to win. Here are the key matchups Bucs must win so that Fitzpatrick can steal another division win on the road.
Buccaneers Defense versus Panthers Rushing Attack
Carolina ranks second in the NFL in rushing offense and uses their rushing attack to pose their will on opposing defenses. They average 138 yards per game on the ground. Both Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey are averaging over five yards per carry.
The Buccaneers came into this week as the tenth ranked defense in the NFL in stopping the run. They are giving up 96 yards per game. Also, they get two key defensive starters back this week in Gerald McCoy and Vinny Curry. They have to make Newton one dimensional and beat them by throwing the ball down the field.
Bucs Linebackers vs Christian McCaffrey
The Buccaneers defense suffered a significant loss to injury in their captain Kwon Alexander two weeks ago. Before then, they had a top-five run defense. Last week, they started the game off sluggish and allowed Bengals running back Joe Mixon to rush for over 100 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone.
Now, this week the Bucs linebackers will be tasked to stop Christian McCaffrey. They have shown the ability to slow down opposing running backs production but have struggled to stop backs in the passing game. McCaffrey is definitely a dynamic weapon out of the backfield because he excels at running any route. Lavonte David will most likely get the bulk of the responsibility to contain McCaffrey. Lets hope it works in the Bucs favor.
Buc’s Evans and Jackson vs Panther’s Bradberry and Jackson
Mike Evans and Desean Jackson both ranked amongst the league best in yards and yards per catch. Jackson is actually the league leader with 22.8 yards per catch. Evans averages 16.7 yards a catch, which is first amongst the top ten receivers. He has 770 yards so far on the season, which is fifth in the league.
Carolina’s James Bradberry usually trails the other team’s top wideout and has handled his own. Donte Jackson is a potential defensive rookie of the year candidate and has the speed to match Djax. Whoever gets the better of these matchups will have a heavy impact on who wins.
Rod Thurman is a contributor for full press coverage covering his beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Follow him on Twitter @bucboy for everything buccaneers and anything football.