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Bucs-Panthers Inside the Numbers: Here's why Carolina is 1-3

Opponents have intercepted 3.8 percent of Cam Newton's passes this season. They intercepted 2 percent of his passes last season. [Getty Images]
Opponents have intercepted 3.8 percent of Cam Newton's passes this season. They intercepted 2 percent of his passes last season. [Getty Images]
Published Oct. 8, 2016

15: Panthers wins last season

Carolina played in eight games last season decided by one score and won seven. That .875 win percentage was the best in the NFL. One could argue that means the Panthers were really clutch, but such hot streaks aren't sustainable. It was only fitting, then, that Carolina fell one point short in this season's opener against Denver.

You could have predicted regression based solely on the Panthers' record in close games, but their points scored and points allowed also were indications. If we take those totals and plug them into a modified version of a formula you learned in ninth-grade geometry, we get a team's "Pythagorean wins," which are a better predictor of future wins than actual wins. Based on that formula, Carolina overachieved by about three wins. Tampa Bay's Pythagorean record (6.2-9.8) was in line with its actual record (6-10).

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10: Panthers turnovers through four games

If you're wondering why Carolina is 1-3, this is it. Their 10 giveaways are more than half of last season's total, and opponents have capitalized, scoring 37 points off those turnovers, third-most in the NFL.

Cam Newton, last season's MVP, has thrown five interceptions, putting him on pace for a career-high 20. He threw 17 as a rookie but has not thrown more than 13 since.

Turnovers, the one department in which the Bucs will not be outdone. They have 11 giveaways this season, and opponents have scored a league-high 51 points off them. In related news, Tampa Bay has allowed a total of 128 points and scored 77 for a difference of … 51!

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95.8: The passer rating of Panthers opponents

That rating is 33 percent higher than last season. What happened to Carolina's pass defense?

It had a bad game. A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad game. In the NFL, some games are like that, especially when you single-cover Julio Jones.

Was last Sunday just a blip? You don't want to overreact to one afternoon, but Atlanta exposed Carolina's defense in ways that Trevor Siemian, Blaine Gabbert and Sam Bradford couldn't. Matt Ryan usually doesn't fling the ball downfield — he ranked 23rd in average pass length last season — but he aggressively challenged the secondary, throwing 16 passes beyond 10 yards.

Five days after Ryan and Jones obliterated the defense, the Panthers, already thin at cornerback because of James Bradberry's toe injury, released Bene Benwikere. Anyone with a pulse and a pair of cleats might want to call the team's main phone line at (704) 358-7000.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.