Bucs-Panthers picks: Predicting who will avoid an 0-2 start

Here are our predictions for the Bucs-Panthers game tonight at Bank of America Stadium.
Defensive tackle William Gholston and his Bucs teammates are pointing towards tonight's meeting against Carolina.
Defensive tackle William Gholston and his Bucs teammates are pointing towards tonight's meeting against Carolina. [ MONICA HERNDON | Times ]
Published Sept. 12, 2019|Updated Sept. 13, 2019

What do you get when you combine the results of the Bucs’ disappointing season opener, the desperate nature of two teams hoping to avoid 0-2 starts and two top stars seemingly going in opposite directions? A council of Times sports writers that leans towards the Panthers handing the Bucs a second consecutive loss. The biggest factor appears to be Christian McCaffrey, who’s pointing up. The biggest factor for the Bucs may be quarterback Jameis Winston, and his inauspicious start may be because he misses receiver Adam Humphries. Here’s our predictions:

Rick Stroud, Bucs beat writer @NFLStroud: The Bucs did some nice things on defense, scoring on Vernon Hargreaves’ pick six and playing the run well. They allowed only 17 points, which should be enough to win. But the 49ers offense is limited. Jimmy Garoppolo hadn’t played in nearly a year. His only real target is tight end George Kittles. The Bucs face a Carolina team with more speed and power. Christian McCaffrey had 29 touches and 209 total yards against the NFC champion Rams. Curtis Samuel is a threat at receiver and in the run game. And then there’s Cam Newton, who you have to account for as a runner.The Bucs offense looked bad in Week 1 as Jameis Winston threw three interceptions, two of them resulting in pick sixes. He may play better but the Bucs won’t score enough points to beat Carolina in Charlotte with both teams trying to avoid 0-2. Panthers 27-20.

Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer, @EddieintheYard: Short week, short memory. Last week was one of Winston’s worst games. We make a lot of playing on a short week, but it might be good for the Bucs to be able to put that disappointing Week 1 loss in the past. Winston has history of rebounding after some of his worst games. This might be one of those situations. Carolina has won four of the last five matchups in Charlotte. But in prepping for a early-season Thursday night game, it’s the Panthers that are at a disadvantage because they don’t have much tape to rely on to scout the Bucs in their new offenses and defenses. Instead, Ron Rivera had to dust off old Cardinals tape, which only says so much because there’s different personnel involved. Bucs 24-21.

John Romano, columnist @romano_tbtimes: Normally, I might like Tampa Bay’s chances against the Panthers on the road. But a road trip on a short week is a tall order for any team. And it doesn’t help that Carolina lost a pretty close game at home against a very good Rams team in Week 1. Got to believe the Panthers are a more confident group at this point. And Cam Newton will be a much tougher challenge than Jimmy Garoppolo was for the 49ers. Panthers 24-20.

Martin Fennelly, columnist @mjfennelly: The Bucs did some good things in the opener, but not enough when it mattered. The offense will find more rhythm, but it won’t be enough as Gerald McCoy waves hello. Despite the loss to Rams, Carolina defense appears fairly stout. While Cam is reluctant to throw downfield, Christian McCaffery will carry Carolina. Winston travel log update: one touchdown pass, two picks. Panthers 27-19.

Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter, @tometrics: It seems silly to try to apply logic to a Thursday night NFL game in September, but I’m going to try anyway. Newton struggled Sunday, and yet the Panthers still managed to score 27 points against a defense featuring Aaron Donald and Aqib Talib. It makes you wonder how many they’re going to score against a Bucs defense that hasn’t had a full week to rest and prepare. Though Tampa Bay held San Francisco to 4.3 yards per play — the lowest average it has allowed since Dec. 24, 2017 (coincidentally, against Carolina) — it didn’t have much of a pass rush. The Bucs are going to have to blitz. If they don’t, Newton’s going to have the all the time he needs to throw accurate passes. Panthers 28-25

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Ernest Hooper, columnist/assistant sports editor, @hoop4you: I’m betting on Bruce Arians. The team he fields may not have as much talent as Carolina, and the weaknesses may get exposed — again. But I think Arians will find a way to will this team to victory. They’ll limit Winston’s chances to make mistakes, find a way to contain Christian McCaffrey and make just enough plays on offense to avoid the dreded 0-2 start. Bucs 24-21.

Mike Sherman, deputy editor-sports: I’m not much for making excuses for a quarterback who five seasons into his NFL career doesn’t know how to throw the ball away without getting flagged or picked off. But here’s a legitimate explanation for what happened Sunday: Mike Evans was ill and had one of his worst games. Trouble is, this would have been the week to call in sick. In 10 career games against Carolina, Evans averages four catches 56. 6 yards receiving. Last year at Carolina: one catch on 10 targets. Panthers cornerback James Bradberry is tough. Panthers 24-17.

Times week 2 NFL picks

Visitor Home Rick Stroud, Bucs beat writer John Romano, columnist Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs beat writer Martin Fennelly, columnist Ernest Hooper, assistant sports editor Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter Mike Sherman, deputy editor-sports
Tampa Bay Carolina (-6.5) CAR 27-20 CAR 24-20 TB 24-21 CAR 27-19 CAR 22-17 CAR 28-25 CAR 24-17
Arizona Baltimore (-13.5) BAL 30-7 BAL 31-7 BAL 30-17 BAL 31-10 BAL 30-18 BAL 28-17 BAL 42-28
San Francisco Cincinnati (-2.5) SF 21-20 CIN 23-17 SF 24-21 CIN 27-24 CIN 21-17 CIN 21-18 CIN 32-27
L.A. Chargers (-2.5) Detroit SD 28-24 LAC 30-24 LAC 28-21 DET 24-23 LAC 30-27 DET 38-35 DET 28-24
Minnesota Green Bay (-3,5) GB 28-23 GB 26-23 MIN 24-22 GB 22-20 MIN 28-24 GB 28-21 MIN 24-21
Jacksonville Houston (-8.5) HOU 30-19 HOU 27-24 HOU 31-17 HOU 23-17 HOU 23-16 HOU 20-10 HOU 31-21
New England (-19.5) Miami NE 41-20 NE 35-10 NE 42-10 NE 38-17 NE 33-14 NE 34-18 NE 42-21
Buffalo (-1.5) N.Y. Giants BUF 20-17 NYG 19-17 BUF 21-14 NYG 19-17 NYG 20-10 NYG 35-23 BUF 23-20
Seattle Pittsburgh (-4.5) PIT 27-24 SEA 28-21 SEA 24-21 PIT 24-17 SEA 21-20 PIT 28-24 PIT 28-27
Indianapolis Tennessee (-3.5) TEN 28-23 TEN 21-17 TEN 20-17 IND 23-20 TEN 19-14 IND 26-19 IND 21-17
Dallas (-4.5) Washington DAL 31-21 DAL 31-24 WAS 14-10 DAL 23-20 DAL 24-17 DAL 27-24 DAL 38-24
Kansas City (-7.5) Oakland KC 31-24 KC 35-21 KC 40-24 KC 41-20 KC 30-20 KC 27-20 KC 31-24
Chicago Denver (2.5) DEN 20-17 CHI 17-13 CHI 21-20 CHI 26-16 DEN 13-12 DEN 21-14 CHI 23-13
New Orleans L.A. Rams (-2.5) NO 34-30 NO 36-31 NO 33-30 LAR 34-24 LAR 50-47 LAR 31-28 LAR 28-21
Philadelphia (-1.5) Atlanta PHI 30-27 PHI 28-24 PHI 30-17 PHI 30-21 PHI 24-20 ATL 38-28 PHI 34-28
Cleveland (-2.5) N.Y. Jets CLE 27-21 CLE 23-20 CLE 24-23 CLE 23-20 CLE 28-21 NYJ 21-16 CLE 34-21
Lock of the week HOU BAL HOU BAL CLE PIT BAL
Upset of the week NO SEA WAS DET MIN DET DET
Versus the spread 9-7 8-8 7-9 7-9 6-10 7-9 6-10
Straight up 8-8 9-7 11-5 9-7 9-7 8-8 7-9
Locks 1-0 1-0 1-0 0-1 0-1 1-0 1-0
Upsets 0-1 1-0 0-1 0-1 1-0 0-1 1-0