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Key Matchups: Buccaneers vs. Panthers

Posted Nov 29, 2013

LB Lavonte David will be instrumental in slowing down a Carolina rushing attack that will be formidable whether or not DeAngelo Williams is able to play

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8) will take on the Carolina Panthers (8-3) on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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:

Buccaneers LB Lavonte David vs. Panthers RBs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert
-- LB L. David leads a swarming Bucs defense that ranks ninth against the run
The Panthers bring a three-headed running back attack into the game, with DeAngelo Williams leading the way. Williams leads the team with 610 rushing yards, while Mike Tolbert’s six touchdowns (four rushing, two receiving) are the best on the squad and indicate that he is commonly used around the goal line.. Jonathan Stewart did not play in the first game against the Buccaneers, but has averaged 3.8 yards per carry since coming back four weeks ago. Stewart may become more important if Williams, who is nursing a quad injury and did not practice this week, is unavailable on Sunday. Lavonte David leads the Buccaneers defense with 98 total tackles and is second in the NFL in tackles behind the line of scrimmage. David had 12 tackles in the last matchup with the Panthers and is the Buccaneers' best weapon against a strong rushing attack like Carolina's which ranks ninth in the league.

Tampa Bay's Defensive Line vs. Carolina QB Cam Newton
Of course, the fourth prong of that Panther rushing attack is quarterback Cam Newton, who is second on the team in rushing yardage (379) and first in rushing touchdowns (five). The first player in NFL history with at least 50 passing touchdowns and at least 25 rushing touchdowns in any three-year span, Newton also has 17 TD tosses this season. In his last meeting with the Buccaneers, Newton was 23 of 32 passing with 221 yards and two scores, adding 50 rushing yards and one more TD. The Buccaneers' coaching staff pinpointed the loss of containment on Newton as the primary problem in Carolina's 31-13 victory in Week Eight, and will ask the defensive line to do a better job of keeping Newton in the pocket this time around. The defensive ends will try to keep Newton from getting around them on the outside while the men in the interior hope to disrupt him with a strong push up the middle. If they can keep Newton uncomfortable, the Bucs can repeat their success against Carolina from a season ago.

Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon vs. Panthers' Turnover Creators
Rookie QB Mike Glennon has thrown just one interception in his last six games, and his poised and error-free work in the pocket is a big reason the Buccaneers have turned their season around in the second half. However, Glennon will be taking on a defense this Sunday that is tied for second in the NFL with 24 takeaways. Last time he faced the Panthers, Glennon was asked to throw the ball 51 times while the Bucs ran on just 14 plays. Since, the team has made a concerted effort to present a more balanced attack, and that has helped Glennon limit the turnovers, too. In the last two weeks, Glennon has posted the top two rookie passer ratings in franchise history, 138.4 and 137.5. Carolina is giving up just 215.9 passing yards per game, but allowed 275 to Glennon is the last meeting, and 296 and 310 yards in the last two games, to New England and Miami.

Tampa Bay CB Darrelle Revis vs. Carolina WR Steve Smith
Maybe. Darrelle Revis did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday and was limited on Friday as he attempts to overcome a groin injury. If he does play, look for the Bucs to continue their recent trend of employing Revis almost exclusively on the opponent's top receiver. In this case, that would be the always-dangerous Smith, who leads Carolina with 51 catches for 581 yards. Smith recently took on New England CB Aqib Talib in a similar all-day man-to-man matchup and got the better of Talib, but Revis would be an even greater challenge if the Buccaneer cornerback is not limited in his movements. In the last Bucs-Panthers meeting, Revis helped hold Smith to four catches for 42 yards. However, the key matchup on Sunday could end up being…

Tampa Bay's Revis-less Secondary vs. Carolina's Balanced Collection of Pass-Catchers
Should Revis be held out of the game or limited, CBs Johnthan Banks and Leonard Johnson will be the first line of defense against Smith, tight end Greg Olsen and wide receivers Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn, Jr. All four of those pass-catchers have at least 27 receptions this season, and Ginn has a big-play average of 15.6 yards per grab. Stopping all four of those players will obviously be more difficult if Revis is unavailable, but Tampa Bay will have S Dashon Goldson in the mix this time around (he was injured for the last meeting between the two teams) and got some big plays last Sunday in Detroit from such young DBs as Danny Gorrer, Kelcie McCray and Keith Tandy.