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Panthers present tough matchup for Bucs

Some areas where the Bucs need to improve most happen to line up with strengths for the Panthers, making the key areas that much more important — if difficult — for Tampa Bay as it seeks its first home win.

Establish a running game? Huge for the Bucs, but they'll have to do so against the NFL's No. 4 rush defense, giving up just 75.7 yards per game. Last week, the Bucs had just 8 yards on nine carries in the first half, setting up third-and-long situations for the entire half.

Come up with takeaways on defense? Perhaps the most important aspect of Lovie Smith's defensive formula, but they'll have to do it against a Panthers team that has two turnovers in three games. Only the Giants and Packers, with one each, have been more careful with the ball this season.

Move the chains on third down? Absolutely a must for sustained drives and keeping the Bucs defense off the field. Having said that, the Bucs are 31st on third downs, converting just 22.5 percent (9-for-40) and they'll face a Panthers defense that ranks ninth in third-down efficiency, holding opponents to 34.9 percent.

Pick up the scoring offensively? It would certainly help after the defense gave up 19 points in a loss, but they'll have to do it against the NFL's No. 2 scoring defense, giving up just 16 points per game. Only the Jets are tougher.

Panthers present tough matchup for Bucs 10/03/15 [Last modified: Saturday, October 3, 2015 10:52am]
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