NFL 2019 (Week 2): Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 2): Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

With Week 1 in the books, these NFC South rivals are both staring at 0-1 records. Each team will have some things to clean up. For Bruce Arians’ Bucs, Jameis Winston needs to pass to his own team after a trio of interceptions, Winston completed less than 56 percent of his passes for under 200 yards and was also sacked three times vs. the 49ers. The host Panthers simply must identify an offensive threat not named Christian McCaffrey, as he accounted for 209 of Carolina’s 366 yards against the reigning NFC champion Los Angeles Rams. While Houston and Seattle managed to pull of the rare feat last year, teams that start 0-2 are historically unlikely to make the playoffs.

Buccaneers: Despite Winston’s struggles, Tampa Bay managed to run the ball effectively against San Francisco on Sunday. Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber each managed over four yards per carry, and the team ran for 121 yards. In order to settle into a rhythm, Arians should mix in some early play-action passes for his talented-yet-unsteady quarterback. The coach loves to take deep shots, but dialing up five or seven-step drops and asking Winston to read the defense behind his porous offensive line is a recipe for disaster. Defensively, the game plan is relatively easy: identify McCaffrey in the formation, and sic your speedy inside linebackers on him. In fact, this may be an opportunity to display rookie Devin White’s athleticism by shadowing him on McCaffrey while Lavonte David patrols the rest of the field. Tampa’s interior defensive line of Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea and William Gholston are stout enough to occupy Carolina’s front five, allowing White and David to remove any space around McCaffrey. Of course, this is all easier said than done.

Panthers: Quarterback Cam Newton finished last season on injured reserve due to a nagging shoulder injury, so last week’s over-reliance on McCaffrey may be the way of easing Newton back in. Digging deeper into his stats, one can find that he threw shorter passes and ran the ball fewer times against the Rams than he traditionally does. Wide receivers D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel are known for their speed, but both were held under 11 yards per catch. Newton has arguably the strongest arm in the NFL, so forcing him to throw quickly is doing a disservice to the potential of this offense. If Newton is fully healthy, coaches would be wise to open up the passing game. Limiting his designed run calls may be a good idea.

Prediction: These teams will show prolonged rust early, turning the ball over and settling for field goals for most of the first half. Buccaneers’ tight end O.J. Howard was unexpectedly quiet against San Francisco, and a matchup against Luke Kuechly and Eric Reid is hardly the way to get untracked. Expect Winston to force more passes into tight coverage, and Carolina will look for more ways to get the ball into Samuel’s hands. Carolina pulls away late to even their record at 1-1.

Carolina Panthers 17, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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