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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 Bucs to Watch Against Carolina

QB Jameis Winston is coming off one of his best career performances and WR Mike Evans will look to inch closer to the 1,000-yard mark before the season wraps up


A look back at all of the match-ups between the Buccaneers and the Panthers.

  1. QB Jameis Winston Quarterback Jameis Winston is coming off the second-best game of his career statistically after Monday night's contest against Atlanta. Winston recorded a 130.5 passer rating and threw for three touchdowns, completing 27 of his 35 passing attempts and totaling 299 yards. More than the stats, Winston seemed comfortable; his throws were by and large right on the money - especially considering the flux of injuries that left both sides of the ball on a constant rotation throughout the game. Winston was able to connect with the likes of tight end/fullback Alan Cross and wide receiver Adam Humphries, who nabbed his first touchdown of the season on a 16-yard pass from Winston. The quarterback was also able to get wide receiver Mike Evans more involved. Despite being double-covered, Winston gave Evans a chance in the end zone during the third quarter and the big-man receiver delivered, coming down with a 42-yard pass for the score. Hopefully, the two can continue to connect as the Bucs go into Carolina. 2. WR Mike Evans Wide receiver Mike Evans needs just 161 more yards in his next two games to eclipse 1,000 for the season. Should he accomplish the feat, he will join A.J. Green and Randy Moss as the only receivers in NFL history to record 1,000 or more yards in their first four seasons. The good news is that after Monday night's game, Winston managed to get Evans more involved. Evans led the team last week with five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. Carolina's defense may be top five on the ground, but they rank considerably lower when it comes to passing yards allowed per game (216.3). It will be up to Winston target Evans, who can once again use his size advantage with the Panthers' secondary and hopefully see more production on Sunday.

A look at the Panthers' projected starters, according to the team's website.

  1. LB Kwon Alexander With linebacker Lavonte David out last Monday against Atlanta, both outside linebacker Kendell Beckwith and inside linebacker Kwon Alexander stepped up. Alexander posted a season-best 13 tackles against the Falcons. It was his second consecutive double-digit tackle performance, recording 12 against the Lions in the previous week. His last double-digit tally before the past two weeks? That game came in Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers when he recorded six solo tackles with four assists. Linebacker Lavonte David is questionable for this week, having practiced in a limited capacity on Wednesday and Thursday. Either way, Alexander will be a key component to disrupting Carolina's offense and making quarterback Cam Newton uncomfortable. 4. The Bucs' O-line The Bucs' offensive line will be going up against a stingy Carolina front seven. The Panthers' defense is top five when it comes to yards per game, giving up an average of just 307.9. It ranks top five in rushing yards allowed per game, giving up 91.6. Part of Carolina's success in stifling the ground game has to be outside linebacker Luke Kuechly. The Pro Bowl-bound defender leads the team with 107 combined tackles. The Bucs' offensive line will have to have success in blocking for the ground game, which they've been able to do as of late. Monday night's 84-yard performance followed two consecutive weeks of over 100-yard rushing efforts by the Bucs' offense, due in part to the effectiveness of the offensive line. There also seems to be an opportunity within the red zone to take advantage of the Panther defense, with Carolina allowing opponents to score 57.58 percent of the time once inside it. 5. S Chris Conte **The last time the Bucs and Panthers played, Carolina was without tight end Greg Olsen after he broke his foot in Week 2 of the season. This time around, one of the most productive tight ends in the league will be back in action and coming off a stellar performance against Green Bay. In just his third week back from injury, the Pro Bowl tight end had nine catches for 116 yards in the Panthers' win over the Packers. Presumably, safety Chris Conte will be tapped to keep that from happening again this week. Rookie safety Justin Evans was placed on IR this week and it's unclear how safeties T.J. Ward and Keith Tandy will split time. Conte has seven passes defensed this season, one of which was in the Week 8 matchup the last time the Bucs played Carolina. Conte came up with an interception in the game as well – where tight end Ed Dickson was the target.
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