After their embarrassing 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints last Sunday night, the Bucs have another division game this week in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers.
The Bucs beat the Panthers in week two 31-17. Teddy Bridgewater torched the Bucs secondary for 367 yards but was intercepted twice.
The game was not put away until the fourth quarter when Leonard Fournette took over the game with his running and helped seal the victory for the Bucs.
What kind of game can we expect, and what can of performance can we expect from the Bucs this week?
Tom Brady, coming off his worst performance of his career, has always had a good game after a game in which he has not played well.
The bad news is Ali Marpet, who missed last week’s game with a concussion, will once again miss this week’s game as he has not cleared concussion protocol.
That means Joe Haeg will start at guard in place of the injured Marpet.
Last week against the Saints was the worst performance from the offensive line this season. Brady was sacked three times and under pressure most of the night.
The Panthers defensive front is not as good as the Saints defensive front, but I am worried about this game tomorrow.
If Haeg struggles, I would not waste any time putting A.Q. Shipley in at center and moving Ryan Jensen to guard.
The Bucs also put two players on the reserve COVID-19 list, kick returner Jayden Mickens, and wide receiver Cyril Grayson.
Mickens has been the primary return man for the Bucs this season both in kickoffs and punts.
With Mickens out, Scotty Miller, Justin Watson, and Antonio Brown could get a chance in the return game. Sean Murphy Bunting and Antoine Winfield Jr. are also listed as returners on the depth chart.
Defensive back Carlton Davis was limited in practice on Friday and is questionable for Sunday. Davis has been the Bucs best defensive back this season and is second in the NFL in interceptions with four.
If Davis can’t go, that would be a huge blow for the Buccaneers defense.
Panthers wide receivers Robby Anderson and DJ Moore had over 200 yards combined receiving the first time these two teams met. The Bucs need very one healthy against this duo.
For the Panthers, all-purpose back Christian McCaffrey will miss the game with a shoulder injury. Tackle Russell Okung and defensive end Stephen Weatherly are also out for the Panthers.
The Panthers have been very competitive this year despite their 3-6 record. On paper, this may look like an easy win for the Buccaneers, but in reality, this could be a difficult game for the Bucs.
The Panthers, coming off a 33-31 loss in Kansas City against the Super Bowl Champion Chiefs, have to feel good about their overall effort. Joey Slye missed a 67-yard field goal as time expired which would have given the Panthers the win.
The Bucs defensive front seven has to get pressure on Teddy Bridgewater in this game. They have to contain Bridgewater and keep him in the packet. Don’t let him get outside the pocket where he can hurt you with his legs.
This is a game the Bucs need to win to get their mojo back. Perhaps they had started to read all the press clippings on how great they were, and the Saints brought them back down to earth.
Tom Brady has to play better, and he will. Brady has seven interceptions this season, with five of those coming against the Saints.
The Bucs have to make better use of Mike Evans, Evans is the Bucs biggest receiver, but Brady has struggled to get the ball to Evans consistently.
The Bucs have to run the ball more than four times. Ronald Jones or Leonard Fournette, one of them has to be the featured back. You would think one of them would be the feature back by now.
The Bucs are the better team and have more firepower. This will not be an easy win for the Bucs.
The Bucs will win 27-24 to go to 7-3 and match last seasons win total. It will not be easy.
This is a must-win game for the Bucs, and they will get the job done in Charlotte.