Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Prediction: Will the Tampa Offense Struggle Again?

Looking at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Carolina Panthers matchup will we see another down week on offense for the Bucs or will they bounce back in Week 16?
Mike Spector |
Wed, December 22, 11:23 AM EST | 4 min read
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Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Prediction: Will the Tampa Offense Struggle Again?

 Before last week, the Week 16 matchup against the Carolina Panthers seemed like an easy victory for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, Tampa Bay’s 9-0 shutout loss to New Orleans prevented them from clinching the NFC South, and they lost several key players to injury in the process. So can the possible short-handed Buccaneers take care of business and clinch their first division title since 2007, or will the Panthers prevent Tampa Bay from clinching the division on their home field?

 Click Here For Panthers vs Buccaneers Odds

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Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Injury Report

TAMPA BAY:

Questionable: WR Brashad Perriman, WR Mike Evans, RB Leonard Fournette, DE Patrick O’Connor, LB Lavonte David

OUT: WR Chris Godwin, S Antoine Winfield Jr., CB Richard Sherman, CB Jamel Dean, RB Giovanni Bernard

CAROLINA:

QUESTIONABLE: CB AJ Bouye, QB Sam Darnold, PK Zane Gonzalez, DT Derrick Brown

OUT: RB Christian McCaffrey, C Matt Paradis

 Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Prediction

Tampa Bay’s 9-0 loss to New Orleans is shocking on many levels, but mainly because it was the first time a Tom Brady-led offense was shut out since 2006. However, perhaps we should not have been shocked by New Orleans’ defensive dominance. 

This season versus the Saints, Tom Brady has a 61% completion percentage, a 34 Total QBR, and a 7.3% sack rate in two losses. Against the rest of the league, Brady is 10-2 with a 68% completion percentage, a 69 total QBR, and a 2.4% sack rate. Since signing Tom Brady, Tampa Bay is now 0-4 in the regular season against the Saints. Brady has a TD:INT ratio of 6:8 and has been sacked 13 times in his last four games against New Orleans.

Carolina lost 31-14 at Buffalo last week, their ninth loss in 11 games after starting the season with three straight wins. The Panthers have allowed 30.0 PPG during their four-game losing streak. Cam Newton is now 0-4 as the team’s starting quarterback this year. The lone bright spot against Buffalo was that Newton rushed for a touchdown and now has scored a rushing touchdown in five straight games for the first time in his career. However, because of Newton’s struggles, head coach Matt Rhule has not yet named a starting quarterback for this week, as Sam Darnold (shoulder) could be cleared to play.

Tampa Bay’s loss to New Orleans was costly for many reasons, starting with the fact that it dropped them one game behind the Green Bay Packers in the race for the NFC’s No. 1 seed. In addition, they lost wide receiver Chris Godwin for the season to a torn ACL. Godwin leads the team with 98 receptions and 1,103 yards. Fellow wide receiver, Mike Evans, left last week’s loss and is considered week-to-week with a hamstring injury. Running back Leonard Fournette also left with a hamstring injury, and early indications are that his injury could be more severe.

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Without two key weapons on the perimeter or their leading rusher, Brady looked Rob Gronkowski’s way early and often last week. Gronkowski was targeted 11 times (the first game as a Buccaneer with more than ten targets) but caught just two passes for 29 yards. If Evans and/or Fournette are forced to miss more time, Carolina’s defense can pay more attention to Gronk and clog the middle of the field.

Tampa Bay wide receiver Antonio Brown returns from a three-game suspension this week, but the team will evaluate him in practice to see what kind of a workload he is capable of. In addition, there is a chance the team is still without wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier last week.

With Carolina’s quarterback situation uncertain, our focus for a best bet is on the Tampa Bay team total. While the Panthers defense has struggled of late, they still face a Buccaneers offense that averages 26.4 PPG on the road compared to 32.1 PPG at home. However, even the GOAT cannot consistently move his team downfield or light up the scoreboard with many pieces missing on offense. 

Even if Evans and Fournette are questionable, we would expect Tampa Bay to be cautious with them, given that their division title and playoff spot are not in jeopardy. Furthermore, we saw how pedestrian the Buccaneers offense looks when you limit Gronkowski’s ability to make plays over the middle of the field and trust that the defensive-minded Matt Rhule can devise a similar game plan to slow down Brady and the Bucs this week.

Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pick 

  • PICK: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team Total UNDER 27.5 Points (-115

 

Mike Spector
@MikeSpector01

Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest

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