Why You Should Give Buccaneers @ Panthers a chance
By Steve Moore
It may not seem like the prettiest game of the season, but Buccaneers @ Panthers should still be an interesting watch this Thursday
So we head towards the first real Thursday Night Football of the NFL season (opening night doesn’t count as those teams get away without the short week), with two 0-1 sides needing to pretty much salvage their NFL seasons with a divisional matchup within four days of starting their campaign.
As the resident NFC South specialist, it comes down to me to be the guy to convince you, the British NFL public, why you should stay up to watch the Buccaneers at Panthers because it won’t produce the sloppy football that most Thursday Night Football matches do.
The problem is that, other than the inherent jeopardy that one of these two teams will basically be draft planning by Friday morning, with a 0-2 record combined with a division loss, there is not a lot to suggest there will be quality football to watch.
Sloppy Buccaneers Slumped to 0-1
For starters, anyone who isn’t a fan of sloppy football would have wanted the first half of the Buccaneers opener erased from their memory immediately and that time given back to them. Between them and the visiting 49ers, they had four turnovers; 12 penalties (of which FIVE nullified touchdowns) and just the one touchdown which came from a pick-6. Oh that doesn’t include a blocked punt that the Bucs also had.
12 penalties and 13 points (the Bucs lead 7-6). Now there is nothing wrong with defensive football, most Buccaneers fans, who have watched the Monte Kiffin era side, actually prefer it. But if you have basically as many penalties as points, that isn’t defensive football, just bad football.
It becomes even more worrying when you realise that the reason the Bucs lost that game is they continued in the same manner after the half and the 49ers stopped. Jameis Winston ended with three picks, two of which went back to the house and should have had two more. Against a defense that had two interceptions in the entire 2018 season!
Winston now has more multiple-pick games since 2015 than anyone, passing quarterback laughing-stock Blake Bortles. That is how you lose game in the NFL. Bruce Arians has placed the blame squarely away from Winston on all three picks, something which would be much more believable were these new mistakes that haven’t been the same things that have happened for his entire career.
Newton's Week 1 Struggles
However, if we stretch that stat to 3+ INT games, Winston has company in the form of his opposite number in this one, Cam Newton.
Newton himself had an opening day that suggested Thursday Night might not be the most well played game in 2019. Coming off that shoulder surgery, Newton turned the ball over twice and was sacked three times. While he didn’t cost his side the game like Winston, the certainly was no sign of the vintage Cam that took the Panthers to the Super Bowl a few short years ago. DJ Moore also fumbled, while the Panthers also missed a field goal and gave up six penalties of their own.
So, Why Should You Watch Tonight?
Well, there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, Christian McCaffrey. Just Christian McCaffrey. For all the talk about Cam Newton it is the all-purpose running back that this offense runs through now. There is no better example of this than the fact that he played every single offensive snap against the Rams. To put that into perspective, Saquon Barkley played in 80% and Alvin Kamara 76%. Skill position players just don’t stay on the field like that in today’s NFL.
It shows to, as he racked up over 200 all-purpose yards, almost as many as Cam was responsible for with his arm. McCaffrey is an X-Factor player and may just be the most underappreciated running-back, to the average observer, in the entire NFL.
Meanwhile the second is the Gerald McCoy revenge factor. Given the respective cap hits, the Bucs basically forced the leader of their defense out of the door for $3m and Ndamukong Suh. While McCoy is playing the same nice guy persona he has shown throughout his career, even talking about wanting to ‘retire a Buc’, the mask has slipped a little on a couple of occasions. He has not only admitted that he was upset by the fact Suh has taken the same #93 that McCoy wore in Tampa but he has also stoked the fires up with Jameis Winston himself, even going as far to say that ‘I know all your escape moves, buddy.’
Not only that, but McCoy will no doubt be aware that a small portion of Buccaneers fans never took to McCoy as a player, despite him being by far the best defensive presence of some really bad Tampa defensive units, bemoaning his ability to get explosive push when it takes him past the play rather than disrupting it. McCoy has even spoken to that himself in admitting he would prefer the game to be in Tampa as opposed to in Charlotte because he wanted to get booed.
The Bucs have already faced one former player this season and Kwon Alexander managed to get ejected for leading with his head straight into Winston, those comments show that McCoy is just as up for this matchup and even if the football is sloppy, watching McCoy all night will be a soap opera in itself.
Image Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports & Bob Donnan-USA TODAY