1) C Ali Marpet**
The center is getting comfortable in his new role as he goes against a familiar, yet tough Carolina defensive line this Sunday. The Panthers rank eighth in run defense and have allowed just three rushing touchdowns this year. This comes as Marpet and the rest of the offensive line will be looking to create more opportunities for Tampa Bay's own run game, while maintaining the level of pass protection they've accomplished thus far. A pass protection that's allowed quarterback Jameis Winston to average 316.4 yards per game, not including the game in Arizona where he exited in the second quarter. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken praised the O-line for doing just that, while adding that not only has Marpet only been playing center for six games, but has a new guard in J.R. Sweezy fitting in after missing last season due to injury and a rookie tight end that is finding his place in the blocking scheme for the run game to be successful as well.
2) RB Doug Martin
With the offensive line focusing on creating opportunities for the Bucs ground game, it will be up running back Doug Martin, along with RB Jacquizz Rodgers and RB Charles Sims, to capitalize. The good news is 'shifty' might as well be Martin's middle name. With him being relatively quiet in three games this season and a familiar opponent coming into Raymond James Stadium, look for Martin to gain some rhythm with the help of the O-line.
3) DT Gerald McCoy**
The Bucs coaching staff has not shied away from the fact that the Bucs pass rush needs to improve. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, one of the best pass rushers in the league, has only 2.0 sacks on the season, so far. However, the Carolina Panthers are a familiar foe. The Bucs defense has sacked Cam Newton 20 times in his career, the second-most of any team in the league. Part of that is due to being in the same division. Part of that is due to McCoy himself. The defensive tackle talked about looking forward to getting back on track as the Bucs face back-to-back divisional contests with the Panthers this weekend and New Orleans in Week 9. McCoy getting to Newton this game could go a long way in finding that track.
4) LB Lavonte David
Since returning from injury in Week 6 at Arizona, linebacker Lavonte David has gone full speed ahead and doesn't seem to be letting up any time soon. He led the team in tackles last week in Buffalo with 14 and forced a crucial fumble that he returned for a touchdown. It was his third forced fumble in two games and first fumble recovery for a touchdown of his career. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has only fumbled twice so far this season, but you can bet David will be looking to change that as he continues to ride the turnover train.
5) Bucs' Offense
The Buccaneers passing offense ranks first in the NFL. The Bucs are averaging 312.3 passing yards per game and could eclipse a franchise record with their fifth consecutive game of 400 yards of total offense or more, should that happen against the Panthers this Sunday. The offense in general ranks second in the league, thanks largely to the efforts of quarterback Jameis Winston and his right arm. Winston needs just one more game with 300 passing yards or more to tie for second in franchise history with Doug Williams at 10. Should he pass for three or more touchdowns against Carolina, he would tie for the most in Bucs history with Brad Johnson at eight.