It’ll be an NFC South clash that kicks off Week 2 of the NFL season, as the Carolina Panthers host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night. At home, the Panthers are being looked at as 6.5-point favorites with an over/under of 49.5 points.
Both of these teams lost in Week 1, although Carolina’s loss was a little more acceptable. The Panthers fell to the Rams, who are the reigning NFC champions. Carolina started the game slowly at home but eventually found their groove in the second half. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to come all the back, as the Panthers lost 30-27.
Tampa Bay’s loss, on the other hand, was a little more disappointing. Tampa Bay suffered a two-touchdown loss at home to the hands of the 49ers. The caveat is that the Bucs had a chance to win with a late-game drive. However, Jameis Winston threw a pick-six with two minutes left, allowing San Francisco to take a 31-17 lead and win by a wide margin.
Avoiding Another Disaster
The pick-six Winston threw in the fourth quarter last week was just the tip of the iceberg. It was his third interception of the game and the second that San Francisco took to the house. The Bucs were hoping that the presence of new head coach Bruce Arians would help Winston put a couple of rough seasons behind him and return to the form he had earlier in his career. But that was not the case in Week 1, prompting more questions about his future with Tampa Bay.
On the bright side, the Tampa Bay defense under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles looked good in Week 1. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III returned a pick-six in the second quarter, as the Bucs held San Francisco to just 256 total yards. If you do the math, the Tampa Bay defense scored seven of the team’s 17 points and only allowed a touchdown and three field goals, which isn’t too bad considering the Tampa Bay offense turned it over four times.
Not the Same Cam
Coming out of Week 1, there are still some lingering questions about Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. For starters, he threw an interception and lost a fumble, being directly responsible for two turnovers. He also ran the ball just three times, failing to impact the game with his legs coming off his preseason foot injury. There were only two games last season when he had fewer than five rushing attempts in a game, so his lack of running should be noted.
Fortunately for the Panthers, they were able to lean on Christian McCaffrey, who had an exceptional game, amassing 209 total yards. However, it’s one thing to use McCaffrey as both a runner and receiver, but having him be the team’s leading receiver doesn’t seem sustainable. The Panthers will need to get others more involved in the offense, and that responsibility falls on Newton’s shoulders.
The Short Week
The Thursday night game gives little time for preparation, which is bad news for two teams that lost last week. All things considered, it’ll probably take the Buccaneers longer to sort through some of their issues than Carolina. That should enable the Panthers to get the better of their NFC South rivals. Bet on the Panthers to win and cover the 6.5-point spread.