WHY THE BUCCANEERS WILL COVER
Sander Philipse is the manager of Tampa Bay blog Bucs Nation. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @Bucs_Nation.
No Cam Newton
With Jonathan Stewart absent as well, that leaves the Panthers with a Derek Anderson-led pass-first offense, not exactly a great recipe for success. Anderson, ironically, has had some success against the Bucs, even winning two games in 2014 with Newton out — but this is not 2014, and while the Bucs defense is bad, it isn’t quite that bad. Especially so against a scattershot quarterback
Jameis Winston and Mike Evans are really good
Mostly, Mike Evans is really good — Winston is a little more inconsistent this season. Evans has turned into a real deep threat and a consistent target for Winston down the field, after struggling to catch the ball last year. With 360 yards in four games, Evans is producing whether Winston is playing well or not. And against a porous Panthers defense, who have just said goodbye to one of their starting cornerbacks, Evans could have a huge game.
The defense isn’t as bad as it looks
Sure, they’ve been plagued by injury this season and will likely miss a few key starters on Monday, too. And sure, the safety position is a bit of a mess. But this defense certainly has talent — Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves can all play — and it will come together at some point this season. What better time to for the new defensive scheme to click than in prime time against a backup quarterback?
WHY THE PANTHERS WILL COVER
Matthew Stevens is a contributor for Carolina blog Panthers Wire. You can follow them on Twitter @ThePanthersWire and @MatthewS_car.
Despite what has been a terrible start to the season, most people would agree that the Carolina Panthers are the more talented team on paper. Even without quarterback Cam Newton, Carolina will have a former Pro Bowl quarterback at the helm in Derek Anderson. He will still have all the weapons at his disposal, including tight end Greg Olsen, Kelvin Benjamin, Ted Ginn Jr. and Devin Funchess.
Defensively, there has been a unique shakeup with starting cornerback Bené Benwikere getting cut this week. Even still, the Panthers have tons of talent in the secondary with an underrated Robert McClain and rookie Daryl Worley. As always, the front seven is led by a bevy of talent in linebackers Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson. With Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei up front clearing the way and stopping the run.
Right now Carolina has to be as hungry as ever this season. Sitting at an unexpected 1-3 record, everyone knows that a loss here would all but eliminate them from the playoffs. For a team that many pegged as a Super Bowl contender in the offseason, that would be a blow to the ego.
At home, with doubters piling on and jobs absolutely on the line, this should be the best version of the team we see all season.
Prior to a loss to the Minnesota Vikings this season, the Panthers had the longest-active winning streak at home. This will be the first game back in Bank of America Stadium and on Monday Night Football to boot. Expect a voracious crowd that will weather Hurrican Matthew’s destruction in order to root for their home team and try to disrupt the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the process.