Buccaneers: Players that must be stopped to win the division

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1: Defensive end Robert Ayers
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1: Defensive end Robert Ayers /
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Quarterback Cam Newton

Cam Newton took a little bit of time after being drafted first overall in the 2011 to become a real NFL passer but once he finally did his all around play rose steadily.

During that time he was selected to three Pro Bowls and he won the NFL MVP in 2015 while guiding the Panthers to an NFC Championship game and on to the Super Bowl which they lost to Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

During his six-year career his running and passing skills have been a thorn in the Bucs side with a record of 6-3 (.667) against the Bucs with 154 completions on 241 attempts (64%), 2,068 yards (230 avg/game) with fifteen touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a QB rating of 96.4.

That gives him a seasonal average of 31 completions on 48 attempts (65%) 413.6 yards three touchdowns and one interception.

Cam’s duel threat ability to rush the ball also has really given the Bucs problems rushing for a total of 73 carries for 348 yards (4.8 yards/carry) and eight touchdowns.

The 2016 season was the worst season of his career and thus also his worst season against the Bucs playing in only one game due to injury with eighteen completions on 32 attempts (56%) for 237 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions (one a pick six), was sacked three times, and a QB rating of 51.2.

Also he only rushed three times for six yards and dropped his rushes down greatly during the 2016 season in a hope to keep him healthier.

The fact that the Panthers had an awful offensive line last season was very beneficial for the Bucs to apply pressure to Cam and not give him time to find the open guy.

Wide Receiver Kelvin Benjamin

This one might surprise some people after missing all of the 2015 season with injury but once you see the stats since being drafted in the first round of the 2014 draft against the Bucs it may make more sense to you.

Although he has missed an entire season due to injury and has only achieved one 1,000 yard season out of his two seasons played he has had some of his best games against the Bucs.

In the four games he has played against Tampa, he has posted 25 receptions for 359 yards and two touchdowns averaging thirteen receptions for 179.5 yards and one touchdown per season, or six receptions 90 yards and close to a touchdown per game.

Basically being Cam’s top deep threat with Greg Olson as the immediate short threat Kelvin has been tough for the Bucs to stop due to his size (6’4” 240 pounds) and his ability to get open.

Luke Kuechly was another option but his numbers haven’t been super huge against the Bucs although he does alter the game significantly.

Once pressure is applied to Cam his numbers drop greatly so again in order to contain Cam and Kelvin the Bucs must pressure the passer.