1. Win the field position battle on special teams.
The Panthers' kickoff team has performed well throughout the team's first three games. They are averaging 65.7 yards per kick, the tenth-most in the league, and are returning their kicks out to the 24, on average, which is No. 13 among all teams. Where the team has struggled, though, is covering punts. Carolina averages the 48.6 yards per punt, No. 7 in the league, but their net average is just 36 yards, No. 27. That means the Panthers are giving up an average of nearly 12 yards per punt return. The unit also gave up a touchdown to New Orleans last week. The Bucs will need production out of Bobby Rainey to help swing the field position battle in their favor.
2. Make Cam Newton air the ball out.
Behind the league's sixth-best rushing attack, Newton has thrown just two interceptions thus far. But despite his efforts to protect the football, he has struggled with accuracy. Newton's 56.6 percent completion percentage is 31st among all quarterbacks. Carolina has been effective using the run to get within striking distance before going to the air to score; the team has two touchdowns on the ground, both by Newton, and five through the air. Tampa Bay must shut down the run and make Carolina sustain drives by passing the ball.
NEWS: BUCS WAIVE MIKE JAMES
*3. Take advantage of mismatches in the secondary. *
The Panthers are noticeably better defending the run than the pass. Through three games, Carolina has the league's fourth-best run defense, which has allowed 75.7 yards per game. The team is No. 18 against the pass, surrendering 239.3 yards per game. After converting one of 12 third downs last weekend, it's imperative for the Bucs to establish the run, something Head Coach Lovie Smith stresses each and every week. But keep an eye on Vincent Jackson to be an x-factor in the Bucs' passing game. Josh Norman is Carolina's top cornerback, earning the fourth-best rating in the league, per Pro Football Focus. But their next-best corner, according to PFF, is Charles Tillman at No. 32. If Norman follows Mike Evans throughout the day, Jackson could find himself in a mismatch against Tillman.
Behind the scenes photos from the Bucs' matchup with the Houston Texans.