Previewing a critical divisional game for Tampa Bay
The Bucs (-5) are back at home hosting the Panthers (+5) who just recently fired had coach Frank Reich. This is the first time these two teams are meeting this season and both teams are really struggling at this point in the season. A loss for Tampa Bay would be the final nail in the coffin for Todd Bowles and company while a win could keep their division hopes alive.
To preview the all so important game, we sat down with Walker Clement of Cat Scratch Reader to get a closer look at what has gone wrong for the Panthers so far this season.
1. The Panthers made headlines this week by firing head coach Frank Reich just 11 games into his first season as head coach. Were you surprised by this firing and why do you think the Panthers decided to make this move now?
Panthers fans have been calling for Reich’s job for awhile now. After Week 3, only 23% of fans were confident the team was moving in the right direction per our weekly Reacts poll. Week 4 was 14% and we made it down to 4% by the time Reich was fired.
David Tepper, the Panthers owner, made this move now because he is impatient and because Reich was not meeting expectations. His team showed zero promise through twelve weeks and the man was, reportedly, resistant to any real change.
2. Bryce Young’s development has gotten off to a rocky start but it’s not all on him. What has gone wrong for this Carolina offense so far this season?
The only thing that has gone right is Adam Thielen being a top tier slot receiver in the NFL. Otherwise, injuries, regressions, and failures to maximize talent have marred every aspect of this offense on every drive in every game. Rare is the scoring drive for the Panthers that takes fewer than ten plays. More common are the 14-play, 47-yard field goal drives like the one that opened their scoring against the Titans last week.
3. Who are some players on the Panthers defense that Bucs fans should have their eye on this week?
Shaquille Griffin was just claimed off of waivers, so we’re all looking to him to see if he can spark any changes. Waiver wire pick ups are where Panthers fans look for hope these days. Stalwarts like Derrick Brown, Donte Jackson, and Frankie Luvu are still playing at a high level, while Brian Burns shows up for a play here and there still.
Otherwise, that unit is so ravaged by injuries that it is often hard to tell who is playing in a given game. For context, the Panthers have twelve players on injured reserve this season, including five guys who have started on defense at one point or another. That’s not to mention the likes of Jaycee Horn and CJ Henderson, who should be starting but are not because of their injuries.
4. When looking at this matchup, what is the one X-factor matchup that you think could be the deciding factor in this game?
Chaos. The Panthers fired their head coach this week and we have no idea what interim Chris Tabor and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown are going to cook up without him. It’s the most optimistic I’ve been about a game since the season opener and that’s because there is a chance that I know nothing about this team.
5. According to DraftKings, the Bucs are currently a -5 home favorite. Do you think this line is fair and what is your final score prediction for the game?
As I said above, I’m hoping for and expecting chaos. I’d stay away from the spread this week if I had a choice, but I flipped a coin and picked the Panthers to win so take that as you will.
Now, for the score? I think the Panthers finally put together more than two scoring drives in a game. I’ll say 17-10, Carolina.
Thanks so much to Walker for doing this!