This week's electronic conversation between Sports columnists Gary Shelton and John Romano:
GS: Have you ever noticed, John, how the word "undefeated" rolls off the tongue? And speaking of the Bucs, all 1-0 of them, do you think it's a word they'll get to use for at least another week?
JR: My guess is the operative word will be "steamrolled." I'm not sure the Bucs defensive line will be able to stop Carolina's running game. Are we in agreement?
GS: Rarely. But this is our first chance to see whether the Bucs really are better at stopping the run than they were last year when they had the worst run defense in the league. I imagine the two Carolina games from last year — 424 yards rushing by the Panthers — were the reason GM Mark Dominik picked Gerald McCoy first and Brian Price second in the draft. Jonathan Stewart has three straight 100-yard games, for instance. Even the Carolina cheerleaders are hard to stop when the Panthers play the Bucs.
JR: The D-line did look better last week than last season, but that wasn't a high bar to leap over. McCoy and Roy Miller had moments against the Browns, and they'll continue to get better, but there will be some long days along the way. I just don't think the Panthers can afford to lose this game after a poor start last week.
GS: I've never quite figured out what it means when "a team can't afford to lose." The Panthers found a way last week, didn't they? Put it this way: When you invest in Matt Moore as your quarterback, you can not only afford losing, you have invested in it. That said, the Panthers are home, and they have run at the Bucs as if they have been in the Oklahoma land rush. Do you make Carolina a big favorite in this game?
JR: When they can't afford to lose, it means they're desperate. It means they're perspiring. It means they start making funny noises when they try to breathe. Sort of like you on deadline. But even with all of that motivation, I still wouldn't call Carolina a big favorite. The Panthers aren't good enough to be big favorites against anyone. I just think they're more likely to win than Tampa Bay.
GS: Never a stretch to imagine. Even last week, when the Bucs came from behind to beat Cleveland, it felt like a five-win team beating a four-win team. But I'm not sure the Panthers are any better with all the players they jettisoned after last year. If Josh Freeman hadn't thrown, what, 115 interceptions last year (five actually), then the Bucs would have won that game. This might be one of those 3-2 classics.
JR: Ah, but you haven't said which team wins this thriller.
GS: It's hard to actually type the words, but I'm going to pick the Bucs, then I'm going to lie down, because I'm feeling a little light-headed. But I really, really want to know if Raheem Morris thinks that a 2-0 record means "absolutely nothing."
JR: I think Raheem was just taking this "we're only worried about the next game" thing to a silly extreme when he said last week's victory meant nothing. On the other hand, I often feel the same way when I finish writing a column.
GS: That keeps you closer to your audience. They feel the same way when they read one of your columns.