I want to start my game preview with a little review of my stay in Charlotte. Point blank, great American city. The cleanliness of the downtown area and the southern hospitality are so blatant and noticeable, that you immediately feel welcome.
I am currently staying in a Marriot in the heart of downtown, which is about 4 blocks from Time Warner Cable Arena (where I attended the Cavaliers Bobcats game on Saturday) and about 3 blocks from Bank of America Stadium where I will obviously be attending tonights Monday Night Football Game. The hotel is right in the middle of the nightlife scene in the downtown Charlotte area. The aforementioned nightlife has been quite fun. We frequented Stool Pigeons, BlackFinn and Foxx and Hound, all bars with a nice female ratio, as well as solid drink prices and a friendly crowd.
Now let me get off of my Charlotte ass kissing rant, and move to a more pressing issue, the game.
Injuries – Kevin Carter and Gaines Adams are both listed as questionable, and Jovan Haye is listed as doubtful. This could be a little troubling facing a team with such a potent running attack. Kevin Carter’s questionable due to an illness, so I’m not sure if he’ll be able to go or not. I would expect Gaines to play, and Jovan Haye to be inactive. These injuries should lead to more extended play for Jimmy Wilkerson and Ryan Sims who both have been playing well as of late. The Panthers have no injuries of significance to report and will be playing with a healthy roster.
Matchup of Note – Steve Smith vs. TB Corners (Phillip Buchanon, Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber) I don’t really need to go into the game breaking ability of Smith because it is pretty well documented. He leads the league with 22, 100 yard games over the last few years. Shutting his big plays down will be the key to the game. We held Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams to 40 yards on 20 carries last game, but I would expect a little more out of them at home. If Steve Smith can get past the first level of our defense on some play action passes, the Bucs will be in big trouble.
This is one of the biggest regular season games for the Bucs since our Super Bowl run. Two 9 and 3 teams, fighting for a division title, home field advantage, and with the Giants loss yesterday, possibly not just a 2 seed, but homefield throughout. On top of that, its freaking Monday Night Football. With a win the Bucs have a good grasp of their 2nd straight NFC South title, the first time since realignment that the same team will have won the NFC South in consecutive years. With a loss, the Panthers (who have a little tougher final 3 than the Bucs) will be in prime position to take that homefield advantage and the division.