Friday, February 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs-Panthers: Scouting report

A three-game win streak has taken pressure off of coach Greg Schiano. And after a surprising win at Detroit, can the Bucs knock off the league's hottest team? Carolina has won seven in a row, but the Bucs have won two of the past three in the series. It might take another five takeaways for a Bucs win.

What the Panthers do best

Win with a suffocating defense. Carolina has the NFL's toughest scoring defense at 13.7 points per game and ranks third in total defense. But the Panthers' past three wins are by a combined nine points, so they've won close games as well.

How you beat the Panthers

They've scored seven or fewer points in two of their three losses, and Buffalo scored a touchdown with two seconds left in the other. It takes an elite defense down the stretch. Arizona outscored Carolina 19-0 in the second half, Seattle 9-0.

Panthers' top offensive player

Cam Newton is third among quarterbacks QBs with 379 rushing yards, and he has been careful as a passer with 17 touchdowns against nine interceptions. He has a deep group of targets. You know Steve Smith, but watch out for Brandon LaFell (right), who has four touchdown catches, and FB Mike Tolbert, who has six touchdowns overall.

Panthers' top defensive player

LB Luke Kuechly, in just his second season, leads the team with 93 tackles and has three interceptions. The Bucs will avoid their top sack threat, injured DE Charles Johnson. But watch out for DE Greg Hardy, a free agent next spring who has six sacks.

The Bucs must avoid …

Mistakes, period. Last week, Tampa Bay had five takeaways and a blocked punt and still needed a last-minute stop to edge Detroit. So zero turnovers is a good start against a defense that's even tougher and an offense less likely to help out.

The pick

Panthers 24, Bucs 17

Projected starters

BUCS

Offense

WR: Vincent Jackson 83

LT: Donald Penn 70

LG: Jamon Meredith 79

C: Jeremy Zuttah 62

RG: Davin Joseph 75

RT: Demar Dotson 69

TE: Tim Wright 81

WR: Tiquan Underwood 11

QB: Mike Glennon 8

RB: Bobby Rainey 43

FB: Erik Lorig 41

defense

DE: Daniel Te'o Nesheim 50

DT: Gerald McCoy 93

DT: Akeem Spence 97

DE: Adrian Clayborn 94

LB: Jonathan Casillas 52

MLB: Mason Foster 59

WLB: Lavonte David 54

CB: Darrelle Revis 24

CB: Johnthan Banks 27

SS: Mark Barron 23

FS: Dashon Goldson 38

Special teams

P/KO: Michael Koenen 9

PK: Rian Lindell 4

LS: Andrew Economos 48

KR/PR: Eric Page 17

Panthers

offense

WR: Steve Smith 89

LT: Jordan Gross 69

LG: Travelle Wharton 70

C: Ryan Kalil 67

RG: Nate Chandler 78

RT: Byron Bell 77

TE: Greg Olsen 88

WR: Brandon LaFell 11

QB: Cam Newton 1

RB: Jonathan Stewart 28

WR: Ted Ginn 19

defense

DE: Mario Addison 97

DT: Colin Cole 91

DT: Star Lotulelei 98

DE: Greg Hardy 76

OLB: Thomas Davis 58

MLB: Luke Kuechly 59

OLB: Chase Blackburn 93

CB: Josh Thomas 22

CB: Captain Munneryin 41

SS: Robert Lester 38

FS: Mike Mitchell 21

Special teams

P: Brad Nortman 8

PK/KO: Graham Gano 9

LS: J.J. Jansen 44

KR/PR: Ted Ginn 19

Injury report

BUCS Out: G Carl Nicks (foot). Questionable: CB Darrelle Revis (groin). Probable: LB Mason Foster (concussion), LB Adam Hayward (foot), G Davin Joseph (knee), T Jamon Meredith (ankle), DT Akeem Spence (wrist).

Panthers Out: DE Charles Johnson (knee), G Chris Scott (knee). Doubtful: TE Ben Hartsock (knee). Questionable: LB Chase Blackburn (foot), RB Jonathan Stewart (ankle), RB Mike Tolbert (knee), RB DeAngelo Williams (quadriceps). Probable: T Jordan Gross (not injury related), WR Steve Smith (knee).

1, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte | TV/radio: Ch. 13; 620-AM, 103.5-FM, 95.3-FM | Line, O/U: Panthers by 71/2, 411/2

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