The Buccaneers defense has been one of the main reasons why the team has stayed in close games more than once this season. That has to continue and even improve against the Panthers and their rushing attack.
The Buccaneers used to be one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL. This sometimes came at the expense of the defense versus the pass, but it helped the overall unit substantially that no one was able to run on the Bucs for the better part of three years.
Sadly, that time has ended. The Bucs are still decent against the pass, but the rushing defense has taken a step back to 22nd in the league on an opposing yards-per-carry basis (4.5 ypc in 2022).
This would not usually be a major issue in a league that generally wants to throw the ball more than it runs, but the Carolina Panthers are a different story.
The Panthers are the last major opponent standing between the Buccaneers and winning the NFC South, and you can rest assured they will be running the ball on Sunday.
Not only are the Panthers coming off a performance against the Lions where they put up 320 yards on the ground, but they have also been able to do this at a slightly more sustainable level for a few weeks now.
Carolina has accounted for 749 rushing yards in their last four games. This average comes out to 187.25 yards per game, and that also comes with a terrible 21-yard performance on the ground in the loss against the Steelers factored in.
The Panthers run the ball well. The Buccaneers are decent at defending the run. This game has the potential of getting messy if the front seven doesn’t show up ready to play for Tampa.
This game looked like it might be easy for the Buccaneers back when the schedule came out. No one expected this matchup to play a role in deciding the division winner, and even fewer people expected the Panther rushing attack to pose a legitimate threat to the Tampa defense.
If the Buccaneers want to win this game and clinch the NFC South, they need to find a way to stop this potent rushing attack.
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