The Tampa Bay Buccaneers look to add another victory to their current three-game win streak against Cam Newton and the sinking Carolina Panthers. The division rivals face off for the last time this season and the Bucs hope to sweep the season series.
Cam Newton is going through the sometimes inevitable ‘sophomore slump’. The Panthers are 2-7 and Newton has been the focal point of Carolina’s struggles. The Panthers’ offense is ranked 23rd in yards-per-game and Newton has been visibly and vocally frustrated with his performance, and the overall performance of the team. Newton has only eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and while scrambling and rushing were a huge strength for the former Heisman Trophy winner last season he only has four rushing touchdowns during this 2012 campaign.
Perhaps the spotlight has shone too brightly for Newton and the Panthers and the attention has been too much to handle for the young quarterback and young team. Although he was a ‘fantasy stud’ last year that amounted to little for the team as the Panthers finished just 6-10. Newton and the Panthers made their national television debut this season against the New York Giants at home only to be trounced 36-7 in front of a national audience as Newton threw three interceptions. This season has already seen the firing of the Panthers’ general manager and special teams coach.
The Buccaneers are now on complete opposite sides of the defensive spectrum. The Buccaneers have the very best rushing defense in the NFL, allowing only 80 yards-per-game. However, they are now the worst ranked passing defense in the entire league, allowing an average of 321 yards through the air. The pewter pirates do have the third most interceptions of any team with 15 total. If the defense can force turnovers then it won’t matter how many yards they give up. They have become the definition of a bend but don’t break defense.
Doug Martin continues his stellar rookie season and is currently ranked fourth in total rushing yards (862) and first overall in total yards-per-game (128.7), edging out Adrian Peterson by .4 yards. Tampa Bay is ranked 15th in passing yards-per-game (240.9) and 11th in rushing yards-per-game (124.7). Most importantly the Buccaneers are ranked third overall in points-per-game (28.9).
The Bucs are 5-4 and can garner more attention in the playoff hunt with a convincing win over Carolina.
Prediction: Buccaneers win 28-17
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