For Panthers, complete game is desirable ‘AGAIN!’ vs. Bucs

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 28: Christian McCaffrey #22 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the second quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 28: Christian McCaffrey #22 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the second quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

The Panthers need a complete game again against the Buccaneers.

The only reason the Carolina Panthers can avoid being 6-2 at the half-way point of the season is by letting Ryan (FitzMagik) Fitzpatrick throw passes all over Banl of America Stadium like he did in the SuperDome  while out-dueling Drew Brees 48-40 to start the season. That said, it would behoove Addison and the defense’s rep to get to Bucs QB a step sooner versus later.

While the Bucs have the league’s worst pass defense- allowing 75% completions and 18 TDs so far– the Panthers secondary has allowed 68% and 11 TDs, which is not exactly stonewalling opposing QBs. In Week Two loss to ATL, Matt Ryan was 23/28 for 272, 2 TDs and scored 2x himself, and Wentz was 30/37 for 310yards/2 TDs when Panthers came from 17 points back to win in Philadelphia.

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Panthers are coming off two major victories—35-21 over the Baltimore Ravens highly capable defense (280 yds, 14.4 pts/game) wasn’t on any major pundit’s radar, and if it can be done by us to others, it can certainly be done TO us. That’s a fact, with years of small failures when Panthers *should* have won certain games. There’s no reason to lose to a division rival and then wind up 3rd (at 11-5) like last year.

Bucs were fast out of the gate while Fitzpatrick threw for over 400 yds. first three games, and it certainly didn’t hurt the 35-year old’s ‘Magik’ tag by relieving Jameis Winston after he threw a fourth interception against the Bengals last week, putting up a 194 yard, two TD ending in just over a quarter, with Bengals winning 37-34 on last play of game.

Tampa Bay has a receiving corps with talent: 6’5” Mike Evans (46/770, 4 TDs) has been well regarded for several years; DeSean Jackson (26/594 yds, 4 TDs), O.J. Howard (24/419 yds), A. Humphries (27/296 yds), Chris Godwin, even Cameron Brate, with three TDs among his eleven catches, have done the job. Buccaneers have #1 offense with 467.6/yds. game, an average of 28.7 ppg. (7th) primarily because only average rushing (Peyton Barber 93/345) at just under four yards per carry.

Fitzpatrick cooled off (4 INTs) vs. Chicago Bears in first game Winston was eligible to come back, and two facts carry much truth: A lot of QBs are having trouble with the Bears D now, and perhaps more importantly, there is a reason Fitz has a career 50-72-1 record as a starter.

Although Panthers defensive line has done well against the run since getting repeatedly gashed by Coleman (ATL) for 107, it doesn’t sound like less than 100 yards equals a job well done when both Baltimore and Bucs live by the pass. Taking a look at over-under line (its 56), and since Tampa Bay allowed over 30 points five of seven games (Cleveland, Eagles only ones who didn’t get there), most bettors aren’t thinking they’ll outscore Panthers and get 37.

Panthers are #2 in rushing at a touch under 139/game, with C-MC (92/423, TD) and Cam Newton (62/309, 4 TDs) doing the most damage, and have #5 rated offense overall. Its legitimate to compliment Turner offense and proven willingness to spread the ball around, and if you don’t find lot of fans who know Newton’s at 66.4% vs. 58.6 career, it’s probably because they don’t want to somehow curse the situation. Hearing he didn’t want to strain his arm by throwing a Hail Mary end of first half vs. Ravens makes one shake their head in wonder, but it worked. Riverboat Ron…

This will be another week DJ Moore gets a start, both because he has pretty good stats vs.  Torrey Smith’s 16/171, and fact Smith is sitting out with a knee problem. One concern might be having Moore on punt coverage, but many special team’s coordinators want best guys vs. just anyone on that situation. The stat about McCaffrey having only missed 16 of 391 offensive snaps, that is worth noting— they might saddle up CJ Anderson for some of those plays. Newton’s clean sheet in the red zone—9 TDs pass and 4 rushing TDs vs. 0 picks—isn’t a statistic many would have attributed to him. For having such a strong arm, he is still not going downfield very far, but at 66.4%, Panthers are running a righteous offense, and deep on the downfield throws is a flaw that can always change. Against a secondary that is giving up yardage and TDs like its an early Christmas, this might be time to cut loose.

The Ravens game was the most complete game from both sides all year. Olsen’s back, so is Davis, Shaq Thompson had 13 tackles, and while it’s not a revelation, Daryl Williams must now wait for  a spot to open on offensive line—Moton and entire O-line is playing too well to change.

Don’t expect Panthers to go wild aerial-vertical just because Bucs seem to suck at it. Ball control is always Coach Rivera’s mantra, but the funniest stat is that Bucs have only given up an average of *one more yard a game* on the ground (96.9) than Panthers, so one has to guess that secondary beckons when only surrendering 3.6 yards a play rushing- the grass may actually be greener where their secondary roams. Questioning one writer’s out of the blue prediction of 363 yards for Newton, maybe because he only has one such game this year, his 32/45, 335 and 3TDs vs. ATL– only two last year, and a career average of 230 yards a game– well, we’ll see.

While it may indeed be time to go upstairs, slinging it all over doesn’t fit with Rivera’s idea of ball control. Even with FitzMagik piling up the yards, when everyone is looking for a pass, running backs often run free, and most defensive lines get tired pass rushing constantly.

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There could well be lots of footballs in the air at Bank of America stadium tomorrow, just remember the Steelers are still next week’s game, enjoy the weather, and keep fingers crossed that Panthers do what good teams are supposed to—keep their foot on somebody’s neck until the final whistle.