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  1. Bucs

Bucs-Panthers: Tampa Bay Times staff picks for Sunday's 1 p.m. game

Here's the Times' Bucs coverage team's predictions for Tampa Bay's 1 p.m. game Sunday at home against Carolina:

SIMEON WILL NOT BE STARTING

Martin Fennelly, @mjfennelly: This is a game the Bucs have to win. And they will. Don't take the griping too seriously. At least they're upset at losing. The same can't always be said about Cam Newton. And the Panthers might be without defensive rock Luke Kuechly and stalwart center Ryan Kalil. Prediction: Tampa Bay 27-24

JUST LIKE LAST YEAR

Greg Auman, @gregauman: Tampa Bay has had a different defense at home, allowing 16.3 points, and the Bucs can only hope for that Sunday. Key to last year's sweep of Carolina? Defense held the Panthers to 22 percent on third downs and forced seven turnovers in two wins. Prediction: Tampa Bay 23-17

BEWARE OF BUCS

Tom Jones, @tomwjones: I'm using the wounded animal theory. Wounded animals are dangerous when they are cornered, and the Bucs are cornered. Three losses in a row. Injuries piling up. There's no reason to think they should win. But they will show their resiliency and Carolina really isn't that good. Look for a big game from Jameis Winston. Prediction: Tampa Bay 27-17

HARD TO TRUST THE BUCS DEFENSE

Thomas Bassinger, @tometrics: The Bucs make below-average offenses look unstoppable. Now they won't have cornerback Brent Grimes. Plus, for the Panthers, there's the Newton press conference factor. He's been excellent this season off a midweek controversy. Carolina wins if it reigns in turnovers. Prediction: Carolina 35-28

THE RULE OF THREE

Ernest Hooper, @hoop4you: If an NFL team loses more than three consecutive games, it's a bad team. I don't believe the Bucs are bad. But what this team believes matters most. A loss to Carolina means doubt has overtaken confidence in the locker room. Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander will hope alive. Prediction: Tampa Bay 20-17

NOTHIN FINER THAN TO BEAT CAROLINA

Rick Stroud, @NFLStroud: The Bucs are a desperate football team and nobody does desperate better. Newton is on a downswing. He's been short in weekly news conferences, when he does them. Tampa Bay is fortunate the schedule allows them to climb back in the NFC South with wins the next two games. Prediction: Tampa Bay 27-24

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