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Tale of the tape

Tale Of The Tape: Tampa Bay Buccaneers At Carolina Panthers

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Carolina Panthers

The Tampa Bay Bucs have not done a lot of things right this season, but Greg Schiano is proving to be correct by his decision to get rid of talented but enigmatic Josh Freeman and replacing him with Mike Glennon. The Bucs quarterback has improved every week and now has an excellent understanding of how to read defenses and run the offense. He is a very accurate and confident passer. Quarterback Cam Newton has been the primary piece of the puzzle for the Carolina Panthers the last three years, and he is playing the best football of his career as the Panthers have reeled off seven straight wins. Newton is a brilliant athlete who can throw the medium- and long-range passes, but he has some inconsistency on his shorter throws.
The Bucs have gotten beaten up at the running back slot, but injuries to Doug Martin and Mike James have opened things up for Bobby Rainey, who runs with anger and speed. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson may be the most important player on the team. He is big, strong, fast and dependable. Tiquan Underwood made a big play vs. the Lions in Week 12 and he can get deep with his speed. Offense Running back DeAngelo Williams is a dependable back who can run hard between the tackles and he has the speed to break the long play if he can get to the second level. Steve Smith is playing with renewed vigor as the Panthers make a run at the Saints in the NFC South. He plays with toughness, speed and dependability. Greg Olsen is an excellent technician who rarely drops the ball.
The Bucs are going to have a difficult time stopping Newton and the Panthers because they have so many options at this point. The Bucs play hard on defense and rank 14th in yards allowed. Linebacker Lavonte David leads the team with 99 tackles and he has the speed to go sideline to sideline. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has a team-high 6.0 sacks. Defense The Panthers are one of the hardest hitting and most dependable defensive teams in the league as they rank third in yards allowed. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly not only leads the team with 93 tackles, he also has nine passes defensed and three interceptions. Defensive end Charles Johnson (knee) leads the Panthers with 8.5 sacks and fellow DE Greg Hardy has 6.0 QB traps.
The Bucs have not excelled on special teams this year. Eric Page has decent speed and a long return of 52 yards, but he is not a consistent threat. Placekicker Rian Lindell is merely ordinary, making 16-of-21 FG attempts this season. Michael Koenen is an ordinary punter with a 37.2 yard net mark. Special Teams The Panthers do a solid job of covering kickoffs and punts, but they have not gotten the big plays in the return game from explosive Ted Ginn that they have been expecting. Placekicker Graham Gano has a powerful leg. He is a perfect 6-of-6 on FG attempts of 50 yards or longer.

The winner is

(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Carolina Panthers
4 out of 4

The Panthers are on a roll and they may think that they can show up at home and punish Tampa Bay. That would be a mistake because Greg Schiano’s team has improved. Cam Newton is talented but his unchecked ego could become a problem for the Panthers.

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