Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
The Bucs are coming off a brutal loss to their division rival, New Orleans Saints, which swept the season series with a 38-3 victory. Tampa will be looking to shake off their latest blunder and bounce back against the Panthers, who they beat 31-17 back on September 20th. Now sitting in 2nd place of the NFC South, the team needs to rattle off some wins as they look to keep pace with the Saints and hope they manage to fall into some losses. Tom Brady failed to get anything going with his full arsenal of weapons but should have an easier outing against the younger Carolina defense. The defense will be looking to remind people how great they can be after getting embarrassed on Sunday night. This should be a game the whole roster is looking forward to as they can get things rolling for the postseason, so here are this week’s Top 5 things I am looking for on Sunday afternoon:
1. Can the offense figure out their identity?
The majority of analysts had high expectations for the Buccaneers offensive unit after the addition of Antonio Brown and they failed to get anything going despite all the talent littered on the field. It didn’t help that they abandoned the rushing attack and only finished with 5 attempts on the ground. While Bruce Arians and Bryon Leftwich have a number of weapons at their disposal, they have to have some balance between the pass and run. Luckily for them, the season isn’t close to being over and they have 7 games to establish who they are on offense. It starts on Sunday as they can work out some of the kinks against a banged-up young defense.
2. Will the secondary keep Robby Anderson and DJ Moore in check?
The last time these teams faced, Anderson finished with 9 receptions for 109 yards and Moore had 8 receptions for 120 yards. While the defense did make the Panthers offense one-dimensional and they were playing catch-up, the tandem will have confidence heading into the matchup that they can tear up the Tampa secondary. Carlton Davis is questionable with a knee injury and if he can’t play or is less than 100%, then it will be on Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean to hold them down on Sunday. If Teddy Bridgewater can get hot early with his guys, then it might be a different story from last time.
3. Who will lead the team in targets this week?
Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and Leonard Fournette lead the team with 6 targets against the Saints. AB finished with 5 targets in his debut as Buc. It is interesting to see how the passing attack develops throughout the season. Will BA and Leftwich end up going with a hot-hand approach? Does Brady want to keep all his guys happy and that’s why we saw the balance of targets? Could it be dependent on the opposing defense and what they can scheme up on any given week? Brady only had 217 yards in the first matchup, I got a feeling he will want to put together a better performance this go-around, especially after last week’s 3 interceptions against New Orleans.
4. Does the defense frustrate Carolina’s offense as they did in the 1st matchup?
Despite letting Anderson and Moore both go over 100 receiving yards, it was a solid day for the Bucs defense. They held CMC to 88 total yards on the day and the Panthers to less than 100 rushing yards as a team. Also, ended up getting 2 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, and 5 sacks. Their performance as a unit was the reason why Tampa won by 14 back in September. If they can repeat that success then they should be in control for the majority of the afternoon. After giving up 5 touchdowns to the Saints offense, the defense should enter the game angry.
5. Will we find out what this team is made out of?
It has been hard to figure out who this team is. The offense doesn’t have an identity. The defense has shown its high ceiling but has been a letdown at times. After getting swept by the Saints in the season series and losing to the Chicago Bears on a primetime matchup, there is a case that this team isn’t as good as some think they can be. Do they continue to stumble against Carolina? Or do they come out and make a statement with a dominant win? We are entering that part of the season where teams show if they are contenders or pretenders. It’s time for the Buccaneers to reveal who they are for the rest of the 2020 NFL season.