By Ted Fleming
For one team it is a chance to remain relevant in the postseason conversation, for the other a win would quiet the boo birds for at least one week and let the telephone lines to the sports-talk stations cool down a bit after weeks of hot debate.
The Buccaneers have seemingly turned the corner from their dismal four-win season of a year ago and they enter Sunday’s game at Bank of American Stadium with just one concern, starting right guard Jamon Meredith who will probably be a game time decision for head coach Greg Schiano.
The University of South Carolina alum has started five of the seven games he has played and while he had limited practice on Wednesday he missed Thursday and Friday with an ankle injury. He is part of an offensive line that has given quarterback Josh Freeman the kind of protection that has helped him bounce back from a nightmarish season in 2011. They have allowed two or fewer sacks in nine straight games for the first time since 1998
If Meredith cannot go, Schiano intimated that Roger Allen or Cody Wallace could step in. Allen has played just two games in the NFL since his college days at Missouri Western State, both in 2009 as a member of the St. Louis Rams. Wallace is out of Texas A&M and the 27-year old has a pair of game for the Bucs under his belt this year.
The Panthers need a win if for nothing else to surpass their record of two seasons ago when their 2-14 record netted them the number one overall pick in the draft, otherwise known as quarterback Cam Newton. However, they will be hard pressed to equal 2011 when they went 6-10 meaning they would have to win four of the last seven.
Defensive end Antwan Applewhite has been ruled out and the hamstring injury could ultimately land him on injured reserve. 26-year old Jason Williams out of Western Illinois could take over and if he does it will be his first action since being claimed off waivers from the Eagles. He appeared in 14 games for the Panthers last year.
One player not on the injury list who is active but may not be in good enough game shape to see much action is newcomer Jeremy Bridges who was signed two days ago to shore up the offensive line and compete for the job currently held by Jeff Byers at right guard. Newton was sacked seven times in the loss to the Broncos a week ago and has already been dropped 24 times in nine games. He is on pace to surpass the 35 from a year ago.
The following is the injury report issued on Friday by the National Football League for the Broncos-Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Sunday, November 11, 2012:
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 5-4 (** denotes starter):
** G Jamon Meredith (ankle)
WR Arrelious Benn (shoulder), ** DE Michael Bennett (shoulder), S Cody Grimm (hamstring), ** CB Eric Wright (achilles), ** G Jeremy Zuttah (shoulder)
CAROLINA PANTHERS 2-7 (** denotes starter):
DE Antwan Applewhite (hamstring)
** LB Thomas Davis (knee), WR Armanti Edwards (groin), ** DT Dwan Edwards (ankle), ** DT Ron Edwards (not injury related), ** T Jordan Gross (not injury related), ** C Geoff Hangartner (knee), ** G Amini Silatolu (shoulder), ** WR Steve Smith (not injury related)
FOR REFERENCE –
Out: there is no chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
Doubtful: a 25% chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
Questionable: a 50% chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
Probable: a 75% chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.