This Christmas Eve preview between the Carolina Panthers and their hated rivals in Tampa has a different twist. Josh Hill and I teamed up, and we each asked eachother questions about this game. Hill is the assistant editor at the Bucs’ FanSided site The Pewter Plank, and his proficiency is also demonstrated on the Chicago Bulls NBA FanSided site Pippen Ain’t Easy (he is the senior editor over there). It was an honor teaming up with Hill for this special rivalry preview, and he asked me eight questions. You can view my answers on TPP here , and I followed up by asking him just four, very lengthy questions solely about today’s game. Hill, of course, took it a step further with his octet and asked me specific questions. I really hope you guys take a look at it, because it is very in-depth and has a lot more Cam Newton related discussion. Without further adieu, on to the questions answered by Josh!
1. The Panthers linebackers, namely Dan Connor and Jordan Senn, struggle in pass coverage, so how much of a factor will Kellen Winslow be in this game? The Bucs haven’t received much out of their receiving corpse this season, and Mike Williams has obviously been a huge disappointment. He will likely be a non-factor against Chris Gamble, but it is interesting to note that Preston Parker has shown some potential this season. He will have a favorable matchup against a less-than-healthy No. 2 corner- if Captain Munnerlyn plays- or a rookie in Brandon Hogan. The Bucs offense is short of playmakers in the passing game, and Josh Freeman’s poor season hasn’t helped that either. Who, if anyone, do you see being a factor in the passing game in this one? It’s a fair question, because Kregg Lumpkin led the team in receiving in their admittedly pitiful performance against the Dallas Cowboys.
To be completely honest, I don’t think anyone will be a playmaker on offense. This team has regressed so much the real question is who will make the most mistakes. If there has to be a guy that will be a play maker I think it will be LeGarrette Blount. The Panthers have been shredded this year in the run game and Blount is a guy playing with something to prove. He is a little miffed he’s not the sure fire every down back in Tampa and wants to t either prove his worth to management in Tampa or to another team that could use him. He’s also 242 yards from 1,000 on the year and if he fails to meet that, he’ll just be another failed Buccaneer from last year. Chances are he won’t get that but the greatest chance he has in the Bucs last two games at taking a chunk out of that total is against the stale run defense of the Panthers. Josh Freeman is so bad this year, he might actually give the Panther secondary their best game of the year.
2. The Bucs obviously have had some huge problems this season with their tackling, and Mason Foster has really hit the rookie wall after playing well in the beginning of the season. The Panthers aren’t exactly the most consistent tacklers either, with both of their starting safeties among the leaders in missed tackles this season. Although LeGarrette Blount had a poor game against the Cowboys, he will be facing a team with one of the worst interior in the league and is one of the most elusive running backs in the league. Speaking of which, the tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart is consistently rated as by far the most elusive combo in the league. Which of the three backs do you see having the better game Saturday, and how important will Blount’s performance be next game?
Like I just mentioned, I believe Blount will have a big day due to the Panthers awful run defense. But as bad and horrid as the Panthers run defense is, the Buccaneers blow them out of the water when it comes to cookie dough run defenses. Ranked 30th in the league, Tampa couldn’t stop my grandmother or her peg legged card club. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart never seem to have a good team, but always seem to have good years. They have to be drooling at the film they’re studying of the Buccaneers defense. It has so many holes, Swiss Cheese is more sturdy. I can’t say which back of the two will have the better day but I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if they both went for 100 plus on this defense. The team is in chaos and they’ve lost the will to fight. Both backs will have good days solely based on the fact the Bucs will over prepare for Cam Newton who also wouldn’t surprise me if he went 100 plus on this defense. This team is bad, and it’s going to get ugly fast. If Jacksonville put 41 up on Tampa with one elite back, I’m already bracing myself for what two, arguably three, running backs will do to this cookie dough defense.
3. Michael Bennett has been a huge bright spot on a struggling defense, and he has been a factor as a pass rusher and in run defense. This week, he will go up against undrafted rookie Byron Bell after giving standout rookie Tyron Smith fits last week in a very encouraging performance from Bennett. I mean, that’s the worst I have seen Smith all year, and he’s faced some stiff competition this season. Bell has been awful this season and should be beat up in pass protection. What other matchups in the trenches catch your eye in this one, and what do you think of this one between Bennett and Bell?
One guy to always watch on the Bucs line, and a guy you should keep an eye on in the next couple of years, is Adrian Clayborn. This guy has what the Bucs need. He’s quick, he’s aggressive and he loves to hurt the ball carrier. Clayborn is a rabid dog snapping his chain when the ball is snapped and he’s always good for a sack. Having Bennet on that line has been a real surprise because having him opposite Calyborn is something that Bucs fans can get excited about. The guy who was supposed to be the stud on the end was Da’Quan Bowers but since the emergence of Bennett, Bowers has taken a backseat and that may be beneficial to his health down the line. But Bennett is still a hit or miss guy when it comes to devastating an offense. He will put pressure on Newton like he did to a small, small extent last time these teams met, but with the matchup favoring him, the results may not be so ugly for the Bucs defense this time around. Expect Bennett and Clayborn to do damage and when speaking about this defense I use damage in the lightest sense imaginable. They’re two bright spots on a black hole of a team .
4. Let’s get to it man, who you got? Score? Hockey style: three stars?
I’ll quote my editor and co-host Patrik Nohe on this one: Panthers a lot, Bucs a little. I think this game, given the behind the scenes turmoil in Tampa with Raheem Morris possibly being out after this year and allegations he’s lost the team, it’s going to be another blow out. Maybe not as specatular as the last few for the Bucs but it’s not going to be within a touchdown difference. Tampa might finally put some points up given how bad this Panthers defense is right now, but the Bucs defense is worse and they won’t be able to keep up with Newton.
As far as the three stars go I think it will be:
1. Cam Newton — He’s always the star for the Panthers. He’s going to carve up the Bucs, we just don’t know if it’ll be with his legs, his arm or both.
2. Jonathan Stewart — I’ll say he has the better day because he’s on my fantasy team. Chances are both backs have pleaded days for the Panthers against this bad Bucs defense.
3. DeAngelo Williams — It’s going to be an offensive attack again for the Panthers and Williams will have an equally fruitful day. Carolina knows who to beat this team and know they can blow them out. Tampa doesn’t scare anyone and the Panthers know they’re not in last place and want to make the Bucs, a rival and a team that has dogged them so many times before, know what it feels like to be beat up, beat down and left for dead in last place.