TAMPA – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) vs. Carolina Panthers (0-0)
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Nat’l TV: N/A
Local TV: BLACKOUT
Away TV: WCCB (FOX)
Announcers: Ron Pitts/Mike Martz
Live Stream: NFL Live Stream
Radio: WDAE 620AM (Tampa), WSC 94.3FM (Carolina)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 94 (Bucs Feed), Sirius 139 (Panthers Feed)
Weather: 84°F, Thunderstorms
Line: Panthers by 3
Injury Report: TAMPA BAY — WR Arrelious Benn (PROBABLE)
CAROLINA — RB Jonathan Stewart (QUESTIONABLE), LB Jon Beason (PROBABLE), WR Steve Smith (QUESTIONABLE)
Key Matchup: Bucs Defense vs. Cam Newton
Last year when these two teams met, it was the Cam Newton show, as the eventual Rookie of the Year made a highlight reel out of the two games against the Bucs. This Tampa team, largely still intact from those beatings, isn’t forgetting how they were embarrassed last year and not only will want to get the season off to a great start, but they’ll want to exact some sweet revenge on Cam Newton for making them look like fools last year.
Last Game: Buccaneers lost to Falcons 45-24, Panthers lost to Saints 45-17
Last Meeting: December 24, 2011 – Buccaneers 16, Panthers 48
Series History (Since 2001): Panthers lead series 17-13
Key Bucs Storyline: Can this Bucs team erase the painful and ugly memories from last season with a revamped team?
Opposing View: Will the Cam Newton show evolve to the next level or will it suffer a sophomore slump?
Last Minute Preview: The Buccaneers are just looking to move past the abortion of a season they endured last year, losing their last 12 games in a row and the regular season slump has yet to be broken. There would be no better way to begin the Greg Schiano era in Tampa than to snap the streak still going on from the last era.
Plus there’s that thing about revenge. The Panthers and in particular Cam Newton, made fools of the Bucs last year in both of their meetings. So an obvious goal today will be to stop the Cam Newton show before it can start in 2012.
But as much credit as Cam Newton gets and deserves for the bashing of the Bucs last year, Tampa failed to score more than 19 point in either of the meetings, and that was a Panthers defense without Jon Beason. Not only will this Panthers team have Beason in store to stop this revamped offense, they have rookie Luke Kuechly in their secondary as well.
This won’t be an easy start to the Bucs new era, but had this still been the Raheem Morris led squad, there wouldn’t be a good reason on this Earth to show up. So the fact that the Bucs have some fight is enough to tune in to this one.
There’s also this new look offense that will finally have the chains taken off. Josh Freeman needs to rebound from his abysmal campaign last year and he’s got new toys in Doug Martin and Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson to do so with. All three Bucs are ones to watch closely in their 2012 debut.
The Freeman-VJax connection worked well at times during the preseason, but the last thing the Bucs need is for that hookup to be slow out of the gate — or worse yet to be non-exisistant. The entire offense is going to flow through how well the passing game takes pressure off the rushing attack.
I said it like a broken record last year and this year, with Martin and Blount, the Bucs might be able to get the dual offense strategy working. One comes after the other in this scheme: if the passing game gets the defense on their heels, you pound the rock with Blount or dash it past them with Martin (which will be the strategy since he’s the starter). Same goes for the other way around.
What can’t happen is utter and miserable failure on all cylinders. The Bucs have sort of built an out — and emergency alternative, if you will– in case the passing game fizzles. They do have two powerful backs in their backfield and that’s something they didn’t have last year.
The Bucs have a lot of things they didn’t have last year and that’s going to be key. But now it just needs to all come together and we will get our first real glimpse at if that’s possible — or how far off we are– later this afternoon.
Prediction: Panthers 27, Bucs 21