Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
Tampa is coming off a brutal loss to the New Orleans Saints. While the final score was 31-24, this doesn’t indicate how this game played out. The Bucs were dominated in every facet of the game and couldn’t stop the Saints offense or figure out a way to crack the New Orleans’ defense earlier in the game. There are 11 teams in the NFC with a record over .500, you could argue that Tampa is a must-win situation before they find themselves in a hole while the rest of the conference battles it out to crack into the playoffs. If they want to be in the picture then they need to handle business in London. Here are my Top 5 things I want to see from the Bucs against the Carolina Panthers:
1. Will the travel schedule affect the team?
As I mentioned, Tampa is heading across the Atlantic Ocean to give our UK NFL fans a show this Sunday. It is known that these games don’t always reflect the true perspective of who the teams are when they are on the field. Some teams can come out slow due to the time difference and the London matchups tend to be a low-scoring affair. Tampa is 0-2 in their London games, but haven’t been there since 2011. This will be a new experience for most of this roster, it will be interesting to see if Bruce Arians has the perfect plan to get the team to perform.
2. Can the defense repeat their success against Christian McCaffrey?
CMC has gone over 179 total scrimmage yards in 4 out of his 5 games so far this season. The one time he fell short was against the Bucs in Week 2. In that contest, he only managed to get 53 yards and didn’t find the endzone. The biggest play of the game came on a 4th-and-short inside the 10-yard line, Tampa stuffed him from getting the first down which sealed the win for the Bucs. Outside this matchup, McCaffrey has lit up the NFL as he has put himself in the conversation of being an NFL MVP candidate. If Tampa wants to get the clean sweep over the Panthers in 2019 then they will have to repeat the same effort from earlier in the season.
3. How will the offensive line hold up?
It appeared that the Bucs had themselves a solid offensive line after their win against the Los Angeles Rams, that quickly disappeared against the Saints this past Sunday. The New Orleans defensive front completely manhandled Tampa’s offensive line. Not only the protection wasn’t there, but the Bucs are also now going to be without 2 of their starting lineman. Demar Dotson has been ruled out with injuries to his hamstring and calf. Alex Cappa will be out with a broken left arm. The defensive front of the Panthers is one of their stronger parts of their roster. Jameis Winston will need to get the ball out quickly and make smart decisions to help out his line. The tight ends and running backs may be used a lot more to help protect their quarterback in London.
4. Can they force Kyle Allen into mistakes?
Since taking over for Cam Newton, Allen has done a solid job at managing the game and not putting the Panthers in a losing situation. In his 3 starts, he has averaged 224.7 YPG, has 5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, but has 6 fumbles, which 5 of them were lost. Shaquil Barrett had a 3 sack performance when the teams met early this season. If he can repeat that, then the Bucs defense could look to force an Allen fumble or his first interception of the season. Allen hasn’t been asked to win the games because of CMC, but if the defense can bottle him up again, then they can get after the young quarterback and force him into mistakes. One of the keys to leading Tampa to a victory.
5. Can Jameis Winston carry them to a win?
While Winston has shown some improvement this season, he had a quiet afternoon against the Saints and the Bucs never got the passing game going. At some point, Winston is going to have to put this team on his back and carry them to a win. The defense is still a work in progress and if a team jumps out to an early lead, they will need him to lead the team to a comeback. Winston won’t be solved overnight under BA, but another step in his play as a quarterback will be showing that he can overcome adversity and bring his team back into a game. It might not happen this Sunday, but if the Panthers get out to a big lead, then this can present him that opportunity to prove himself.