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Key Matchups: Buccaneers vs. Panthers

Posted Oct 24, 2013

Among the specific battles to keep an eye on Thursday night will be the Bucs' defensive line trying to create pressure against a Carolina front that has allowed 18 sacks

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6) will take on the Carolina Panthers (3-3) Thursday night in a nationally-televised game at Raymond James Stadium. Here are several matchups between individual players and/or certain team units that could go a long way towards determining the game's final outcome:

QB Cam Newton vs. Bucs Defense
The Panthers’ 197 passing yards per game (ypg) ranks 28th in the league but Newton has been efficient, with 10 touchdown passes and top-12 rankings in completion percentage, passer rating and yards per completion. The Bucs must also hinder his ability to run. They have allowed just one rushing TD this year, but it did come from a quarterback.

-- The Bucs need to mount a strong pass rush on QB Cam Newton
WR Vincent Jackson vs. Panthers Secondary
Vincent Jackson has posted two consecutive 100+-yard, two-score games and averages 15.1 yards per catch this season. He faces a Panthers secondary that has only allowed five receiving TDs. Jackson was targeted on 50% of Glennon’s passes last week and accounted for 54% of the receiving yardage. Should Carolina put extra coverage on Jackson, another player must step up to give the offense an advantage.

Panthers Receiving Quartet vs. Bucs Coverage
Newton has done a good job spreading the ball around among his receivers. TE Greg Olsen and WRs Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn each have 15+ receptions, 250+ yards and at least one score. With Darrelle Revis roaming his side of the field, the Bucs secondary and linebackers must force Newton to throw into tight windows and create turnovers.

QB Mike Glennon vs. Panthers Defense
Since the bye, Glennon has posted 264.5 passing ypg with four touchdowns and just one interception. He’ll look to keep those stat trends alive against the Panthers, who boast the toughest pass defense he has yet to face. Carolina has nine interceptions and the seventh-lowest opponent passer rating in the league at 78.1.

-- Rookie RB M. James takes over in the backfield
Panthers Offensive Line vs. Bucs Pass Rush
For the Bucs' defense, perhaps the most important facet of tonight’s game is pressure. The Carolina offensive line has allowed 18 sacks in their first six games, 14 of them coming in the team’s three losses. Five of Newton’s six turnovers also came in those weeks. Pressure from the front four and blitzes and sacks from the linebackers will force a long field, and more importantly turnover opportunities.

RBs Mike James and Brian Leonard vs. Panthers Front Four
Doug Martin will miss Thursday's game with a shoulder injury. After he left Sunday’s game, his rookie replacement, James, carried the load with 45 yards on 14 attempts. Leonard could also be used to change the pace against the Carolina front that has allowed just two rushing TDs and the fourth fewest rushing yards this year.