It’s well documented that a Panthers win tonight will put them over .500 for the first time since 2008. As depressing as that is at least the team is at the point of having a winning record almost halfway into the season. Considering the team has started each season 1-3 under Ron Rivera I think it’s more than safe to say most Panther fans would take the .500 record they possess going into tonight’s contest.
This year’s team has been hard to predict. One week they look incompetent and then the next they knock your socks off. The Panthers have put together two nice wins in a row in comfortable fashion, which has the fan base cautiously buying into the team. Many still want to see this team go out and handle a Tampa Bay team before they buy in, and many will want to see them beat a team with a winning record before they get their hopes up.
Regardless enjoy the fact that we get to watch a relevant football team. Here are this week’s picks with each of our record in predicting the team’s games this season in parentheses.
Ken Dye (1-5)
Panthers 27, Bucs 22
The Panthers defense is likely the NFL’s best as they’re in the top-3 in every meaningful statistical category. They’re second to Kansas City in points allowed, but KC has only played one team with a winning record. With a rookie QB starting in Mike Glennon and having lost the Muscle Hamster to a torn Labrum, scoring should be at a premium for the Bucs tonight. Cam Newton’s QB rating over the past two games is over 136 (!!) and his teammates say he’s playing smarter, reading his progressions well and as long as Carolina’s running game is adequate, the defense should shut down any semeblance of a running game the Bucs have left. As a result it’ll force Glennon to put the team on his shoulders.
Pick to Click: Brandon LaFell. LaFell is starting to show some improvement the past few games and has had some of his career best games against the Bucs. Although Tampa Bay paid tons of money to buff up their secondary this offseason, it has yet to pay dividends.
Tony Cardwell (3-3)
Panthers 35, Bucs 17
The Panthers are playing good football finally. Like a fine wine the Panthers only get better with age and the team is aged about two weeks. But that aged two weeks has been great! The offense plugs away in their primetime debut this year and the young secondary makes mincemeat of rookie Mike Glennon while the front seven keeps him on the ground.
Pick to Click: Luke Kuechly. Kuechs is due for a big game. He was relatively quiet against St. Louis, so expect him to shine against the Bucs.
Joey Riollano (3-3)
Panthers 24, Bucs 13
The game tonight is going to be a tough one. These two teams have a pretty good rivalry. Carolina will have a tough time running the ball against this defense, but they need to stay committed to it. This takes some of the pressure off of Cam Newton and allows him to get into the flow of the game. The Bucs do boast a tough defense, but if we can own the time of possession battle we should be able to win this game.
Tampa Bay is without Doug Martin so offensively the Bucs will be less lethal. Carolina’s main concern will have to be Vincent Jackson. He has lit it up over the past two weeks and has become the favorite target of quarterback Mike Glennon. If we can pressure Glennon we may be able to force a few turnovers and get the Bucs dangerous duo off the field.
Pick to Click: Cam Newton. I expect Cam to play well and throw for 220 yards and two touchdowns. In addition he’ll wind up with 30 or so rushing yards.
Brandon Becker (3-3)
Panthers 34, Bucs 6
I know the Bucs are better than their record suggests, but this is a team surrounded by turmoil. Typically I would say the short week would be an advantage for the lesser team as there isn’t as much time to prepare, yet in this case I don’t think it’ll make a difference. The Bucs know Schiano is on his way out the door and I expect the Panthers to come out punching. Will the Bucs punch back or roll over? You know how I feel.
Pick to Click: Cam Newton. There will be a variety of players who could get this honor, but Cam is going to put the league on notice with a stellar performance tonight. It finally seems like he’s turning a corner and under the bright lights I expect him to rise to the occasion in a big way.