Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Carolina Panthers Preview: Behind Enemy Lines


Dec 1, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers mascots before the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

I hate the Carolina Panthers.

I hate those Carolina blue uniforms. I hate Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme (not that either of them will have anything to do with this week’s game). I hate that kitten roar that plays every time they get a first down in their stadium. I hate that Luke Keuchly is considered a better linebacker than Lavonte David. I think “Riverboat Ron” is a stupid nickname.

But with all of that said, that hasn’t stopped me from becoming friends with the enemy and learning their inner secrets.

Our “frienemies” over at CatCrave.com had gotten in touch with me about previewing this week one matchup through the eyes of each other. That means that I will share with you what their editor, Bryan Palmese, thinks of the Panthers, and how they match up with our Buccaneers.

It’s a partnership that we hope to continue into the future in an effort to bring the most diverse coverage possible to our readers.

We also hope to stoke the fire between our fan bases and get this rivalry heated up.

So, without further ado, I present to you this Buccaneers vs Panthers preview, through the eyes of Panther fan and Cat Crave editor Bryan Palmese. Be sure to let him know how you feel in the comments and on Twitter.

Aug 8, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (13) warms up before the game against the Buffalo Bills at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

What were the Panthers key offseason changes? Do you believe they did enough to address the team’s needs?

The two biggest changes in Carolina this offseason is at the receiver position and the secondary.  The Panthers completely overhauled Cam’s receiving options as Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn, Jr., and Domenik Hixon all departed for greener pastures.   The additions of team-first veterans Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and tight end Ed Dickson will all aid Newton’s aerial attack.  Carolina is also injected a towering shot of youth at the position, as rookie Kelvin Benjamin was drafted with the #28 overall selection.  A familiar name to Tampa fans, Tiquan Underwood was brought in, but was let go during the first round of cuts.  The Panthers went with a “bargain shoppers” mentality last year, and continued with that thought process this year.  Veteran Antoine Cason was brought in, and has locked down the #1 spot.  In the fifth-round of the draft, Carolina drafted Bene Benwikere, who turned out to be one of the standouts of OTAs and Training Camp. The Panthers also added NFC South veteran safeties Thomas DeCoud and Roman Harper.  DeCoud will be a bright spot due to a front-seven that is ferocious, but the jury is out on the aging Harper.  I believe Carolina did a solid job taking care of what they could with a very strapped budget.  The Panthers lost Jordan Gross at LT, but Byron Bell has looked like a very capable replacement, who will only get stronger as the year wears on.  There are still a few areas that could use improvement, but Carolina wasn’t built in a day.  Overall, I give it a B- based on the cap room that they had available.

2. Where do you believe the Panthers rank among the NFC South this year, after winning the division in 2013?

2013 was a huge success in Carolina, and it’s great to be the reigning NFC South Champions as the 2014 season kicks off. However, I feel like they overachieved by a couple of games, so entering 2014,  I see the Panthers as the second-best team in the NFC South.  New Orleans has only gotten stronger and the Panthers were not able to keep up with any of the NFC South’s teams during free agency.  I believe each team will increase their win totals by 3 or 4 games and we will witness a bruising 2014 season within the Division.  However, with a DL and LB unit that has only gotten better with a year of experience under its’ collective belt, I don’t think the Panthers drop off too far.  I foresee a 10-6 campaign and finishing ahead of Atlanta and Tampa.

Oct 24, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) rushes Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon (8) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

3. How do you compare Luke Kuechly to Lavonte David? Who will have the better game on Sunday?

I think Luuuuuuuuke and Lavonte David are two of the premiere linebackers in the game today.  I think David’s speed is more evident than Kuechly and when I watch David, I see an instinctual player that is always around the ball.  Kuechly is similar in this aspect as he has a nose for the ball and never appears out of place.  Kuechly is a great leader and a tackling machine, much the same as David.  I think both players will be the most productive players on the field Sunday.  Both players have the ability to keep their respective team’s focused and leading by example.  Due to the question marks at quarterback for us, and the chemistry not being there with all of the new receivers this early in the year, I see David having a slightly better game.

Aug 15, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) and quarterback Derek Anderson (3) pose for a photo during the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles won the game 14-9. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

4. What are you keys to the game for the Panthers, and how do you think the teams stack up against each other?

I think the team’s always play entertaining games and always step it up a notch whenever they face-off.  Both teams boast an intimidating front-seven and I anticipate a game dictated by defense.  One key to the game for the Panthers is winning the trench fight against Tampa’s strong defense.  Keeping the quarterback upright and opening some holes to establish the run is crucial.  The biggest key for Carolina has to be the health of Cam Newton.  There aren’t many QBs in the league that bring the attributes that Newton does, and back-up Derek Anderson is not one of them.  Anderson is a very capable quarterback, but Newton’s ability to run forces opposing defenses to play much differently.  

5. Predict the game. Who wins, by what score, and why?

I think it will take a few games for Tampa to get acclimated to the new coaching staff and build a confidence in its’ roster.  I’m intrigued to see how effective Doug Martin is coming off of his injury, but the same can be said for Cam Newton.   Again, I think defense reigns true for four quarters and the game is decided by less than a touchdown.  Carolina and Tampa will play conservative games early on and look to take a few chances when the opportunity arises.  I see Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson having big games for the Panthers, and Vincent Jackson stepping up for the Bucs.  I am also looking forward to episode one of the Mike Evans vs. Kelvin Benjamin show to see which receiver-in-a-tight-end’s-body is more impressive.  When the clock strikes all zeroes, I believe Carolina sneaks out of Raymond James with a 17-13 win and a much needed early season divisional win.

Excuse me now while I go puke at the thought of Bryan’s prediction coming true…

In all seriousness though, it should be a great game played between two defensive teams. Join The Pewter Plank tomorrow morning, as we’ll have our own preview and predictions for the game.

Fire the cannons.