Bucs vs. Panthers: Pewter Preview and Predictions

It’s GAME DAY at Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux – Come watch Bucs football all season long!


WHEN: Sunday, January 1, 202 | WHERE: Raymond James Stadium | KICK OFF: 1:00 p.m. ET | TV: FOX

GAME-BY-PLAY: Kevin Burchardt | ANALYST: Greg Olsen | NIJLINE: Erin Andrews

98 ROCK 97.9 FM | GAME-BY-PLAY: Gene Deckerhoff | ANALYST: David Moore | NIJLINE: TJ Rives

With game day approaching, it’s time for the Pewter Report staff to provide their weekly game predictions and our game preview of this week’s matchup. Let us know what you think in the article comments section and add your prediction as well.

Scott Reynolds: Can’t bet against Brady with the playoffs on the line

Bucs Rb Leonard Fournette and Qb Tom Brady

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

I can not do it. Can’t bet against Bucs quarterback Tom Brady on a playoff shot at stake in Sunday’s home final against the Panthers. Brady hasn’t played well at times this year, especially this season when he had two interceptions in each of the last three games. But he’s also the reason for some last-second heroics against the Rams, Saints and most recently the Cardinals this season. Brady’s legacy is about winning division titles – he’s won 19 in his career – and that’s what’s at stake on Sunday. Much more often than not, Brady rises to the occasion when it matters most. At 7-8, the Bucs have painted themselves into a corner with a must-win against the Panthers on Sunday, and I think Brady does.

Of course he needs some help. Left tackle Donovan Smith must return from a foot injury and must battle Pro Bowl pass rusher Brian Burns to keep Brady clean and upright. And Brady needs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to play their best football on Sunday. Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White must convert short yardage situations through the air or ground to avoid three-and-outs and drive down the field for scores.

Defensively, the Bucs got three Arizona takeaways and might need that many to beat the Panthers. Stopping D’Onta Foreman, Chuba Hubbard and Carolina’s powerful ground game will be challenging, and Vita Vea’s return should help. Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting will have to hit the ground running if Carlton Davis III can’t go, and make sure those Carolina backlogs make long runs down the sidelines, as they did in a 21-3 win in Week 7. The Bucs find a way to win one, as they have done seven times this year. Tampa Bay takes eighth on Sunday, claiming their eighth division title in franchise history in the process.

REYNOLDS’ GAME PREDICT: Bucs 23, Panthers 20

Matte Matera: Bucs rumbles around again, but wins it late

Bucs Qb Tom Brady

Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

Hold me back if you’ve heard this before: The Bucs are starting to look good on one of their first drives, but have to settle for a field goal. Then suddenly, with the exception of a few glimmers of hope, their attack fails to move the ball and they quickly end drives. On the other hand, the defense keeps the Bucs in play until they make a big mistake and it squanders their lead. What happens now? Well, it’s Tom Brady to the rescue with a late game drive… again.

We’ve seen this story over and over. And in the moment it is an exciting feeling. But once it’s done, you’ll see it just like you felt after watching the sequel to your favorite movie – underwhelmed. This time, however, things are a little different, as the Bucs have a division to win. The Bucs embarrassingly lost to this team last time, where they only scored three points. Surely you would think that Brady and the attack could improve this time. They get more from Rachaad White, but the passing of others like Chris Godwin, Russell Gage and Julio Jones has improved. It’s just too far and in between.

The main goal for the Bucs defense is to stop D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard’s Panthers-run play. They will need all hands to do this with Vita Vea and Akiem Hicks up front and Lavonte David and Devin White doing their best as inside linebackers. Tampa Bay has to force Sam Darnold to keep throwing the ball, and if they can do that, they have a good chance of winning. This won’t be like the Bengals game for the Bucs. If they jump to a similar lead in the first half, the Panthers can’t come back. I just think it’s going to be another defensive battle, leading to some Brady theatrical stuff.

MATERA’S GAME PREDICT: Bucs 19, Panthers 17

JC Allen: Bucs Secure Division narrowly wins

Panthers Wr Dj Moore and Db Antoine Winfield Jr.

Panthers WR DJ Moore and DB Antoine Winfield Jr. – Photo by: USA Today

Let’s keep the positivity rolling. I’m betting again on the Bucs to win and capture their second straight division title. With the current state of the offense, this is not going to be a cakewalk. While the Bucs appear to be finally “healthy” on both sides, no one is out of the game. They still haven’t found their identity and are struggling to get their last two wins at the end of regulation and overtime.

The attack is to get Donovan Smith back after missing two games. His return will bring the Bucs offensive line to full strength for the first time since Week 9. Ryan Jensen returned to practice on Wednesday and while he won’t play, he should give the line an emotional boost. The Bucs have all of their skill players healthy and ready to go, but they will need better execution to move the ball down the field. The Panthers’ defense held the Bucs to just three points in their first meeting. That offensive output will not earn Tampa Bay the divisional crown.

The Bucs defense will have to put pressure on Sam Darnold early on, who has a tendency to see ghosts if he rattles early and often. It looks like the Bucs will be at full strength in their secondary for the first time since the start of the season. Running backs Donta Foreman and Chubba Hubbard set fire to the defense in Week 7 for 181 yards on the ground and 37 through the air. The Bucs are 5-1 when Vita Vea and Akiem Hicks are on the field together, allowing only 88.9 yards per game compared to 141.2 yards and a 2-7 record when one or both are missing. The Bucs will have to play consistently for four quarters if they want to secure the division.

ALLEN’S GAME PREDICT: Bucs 20, Panthers 17

Bailey Adams: Bucs fails to make it easy on himself again

Bucs Nt Vita Vea and Lb Lavonte David

Bucs NT Vita Vea and LB Lavonte David – Photo by: USA Today

It’s all on the line for the Bucs this Sunday. As terrible as this season of ups and downs has been at times, Tampa Bay can repeat as NFC South champions with a victory over the Panthers at Raymond James Stadium. However, a loss would mean the Bucs need some help in Week 18 if they want another division crown and a home game. And as much as I’d like to say this is set up for Todd Bowles’ team to cruise and finish the south with a week to play, this is arguably one of the tougher games to play this season .

Despite the 6-9 record, Carolina has proven to be quite a tough one under interim head coach Steve Wilks. The Panthers are 5-5 since he took over and despite the trade of Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers, they still run the ball exceptionally well. Look no further than last week when they ran for a team-record 320 yards against the Lions last week. And the last time these two teams met was the same week of the McCaffrey trade, which mattered little as Carolina ran for 173 yards in a 21-3 win in Charlotte.

Crazy as it may sound, the 6-9 Panthers have been a better team than the Bucs lately. Tampa Bay needed another late comeback and overtime to beat the Cardinals by four wins last week. They will need both of their tackles to play and they will need to protect Tom Brady much better, in addition to creating more running space for Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White. They will also have to stop the run and get Sam Darnold to beat them. Unfortunately I have a bad feeling they will struggle to do those things and Sunday will be the final downturn in this rollercoaster of a season. And that’s going to make week 18 really jittery.

ADAMS’ GAME PREDICT: Panthers 24, Bucs 16

Josh Queipo: Bucs scrapes through to division win

Bucs Olb Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Panthers Rb D'Onta Foreman

Bucs OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Panthers RB D’Onta Foreman – Photo by: USA Today

Bucs fans, don’t assume this will be easy. The Panthers have an interim head coach in Steve Wilks and are starting their third different quarterback this year in Sam Darnold. They traded their best offensive player in Christian McCaffrey, but it doesn’t matter. The Panthers are currently playing the best football of the season and have a shot at winning the NFC South with a win over the Bucs today and a win in New Orleans next week.

That should put Tampa Bay and you off after this team started 1-5. If Carolina is able to establish her running game as she did earlier in the season against the Bucs with 173 yards on the ground, it could lead to a disappointing home loss for the good guys. By the way, the Panthers ran 320 yards in a big win over the Lions last week.

But this is the only road to victory I see for Carolina. If the Bucs can stop the Panthers’ fast attack, I don’t see them getting many points. But the Bucs, unsettled as they are, have the pieces to win in multiple ways. And despite Tampa Bay having a worse point difference on the season, I can see them pulling this one out in a way very similar to the Cardinals game – ugly.

QUIPO’S GAME PREDICT: Bucs 20, Panthers 13

#Bucs #Panthers #Pewter #Preview #Predictions

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