Skip to main content

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 Bucs to Watch Against the Panthers in Week 18 

The Buccaneers will take on the Panthers in Week 18 in a win-or-go-home divisional matchup. Here are five players to watch

5 Bucs to Watch Week 18_

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will head to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers for one shot at a third-straight division crown. The Bucs fell to the New Orleans Saints in Week 17, 23-13, and will vie for redemption in the regular-season finale at Bank of America Stadium. The Saints controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football and Tampa Bay will strive to outmatch the Panthers physicality in Week 18. The last time the two clubs met, the Bucs sealed the victory with an Antoine Winfield Jr. interception. Tampa Bay has adopted a singular focus this week, honing in on details.

"They're a team that [has] nothing to lose," said Winfield Jr. "It's going to be one of those games. I know they're coming in and they're going to have a lot of energy because they have an opportunity to knock us out of the playoffs. I feel like, being on the opposite side of it, I'd be like, 'Oh yeah, we've got to get these guys out of the playoffs.' So, I feel like they're coming with that energy – we have to make sure that we match it."

Antoine Winfield Jr.

Antoine Winfield Jr. has cultivated a stellar 2023 resumé, featuring 117 tackles, five tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, seven quarterback hits, three interceptions, 12 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. He fills a variety of roles for the Buccaneers on defense and performs all at an elite level whether manning the post, dropping in coverage, blitzing or disrupting the run in the box. Winfield plays with great anticipation and flies around the field making timely splash plays. He has great pursuit leverage and takes effective angles to the ball whether against the run or pass. On Sunday in Week 18, Winfield will likely play a key role in causing havoc for Panthers' rookie quarterback Bryce Young. Young has undergone the ups and downs that often encompass a first-year campaign in the league but he possesses the athletic traits that made him the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He may be small in stature, but Young effectively locates voids in coverage and is dangerous when scrambling. Young can deliver the ball from a variety of angles and leads receivers well.  

Luke Goedeke

Bucs' right tackle Luke Goedeke will draw a challenging task on Sunday in facing Panthers' cornerstone defender Brian Burns. Goedeke plays with a competitive disposition, anticipation and fluid footwork for move-blocking duties and pulls. Burns has racked up a team-high 7.0 sacks in 2023, along with 17 quarterback hits and 15 tackles for loss. Few players can bend around the edge like Burns. His flexibility around the rush arc is second to none, joining upper echelon names Robert Quinn and Randy Gregory in that category. Burns can dip under offensive linemen and has a vast pass-rush arsenal. With rare closing burst, Burns will be the player that Tampa Bay keys in on for obvious passing downs.

Shaquil Barrett

The Panthers rank 29th in the NFL in sacks allowed, giving up 62 sacks overall (59 on Bryce Young, three on Andy Dalton) - tied for the third most in the league. The Panthers selected Ikem Ekwonu with the sixth-overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to pair with right tackle Taylor Moton. Ekwonu plays with a violent demeanor and is adept at working in space with lateral quickness. He has struggled down the stretch in his second year and on Sunday, Shaquil Barrett could face Ekwonu in the trenches. Barrett missed the Week 17 matchup with a groin injury but was a full participant throughout the week in preparation for the Panthers. His play would bolster the Bucs' defensive line. Barrett leverages his power and compact body with a repertoire of counter moves and has generated 4.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits in 2023. Barrett utilizes his size to slide under anchor attempts and is relentless in pursuit.

Cody Mauch

Cody Mauch, the Bucs' second-round pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, has started every game at right guard for the club. He is one of four rookie offensive linemen in the NFL who have played 100% of their team's offensive snaps. Mauch is an effective drive blocker in the run game and plays with toughness. He can re-direct in space with fluid hips and come Sunday, he will go up against Panthers' stalwart defensive tackle Derrick Brown. Brown has 13 quarterback hits in 2023 and clogs run lanes, quickly dislodging blockers. He commands the point of attack and frequently receives double teams, which frees up the Panthers' linebackers to get after the opposing quarterback. Brown plays with power and urgency, setting the tone for Carolina.

Rachaad White

Carolina's run defense has struggled in 2023 and ranks 23rd, surrendering an average of 123.0 yards to opponents on the ground. The Bucs were not able to achieve consistency in the run game against the Saints, but this week could provide opportunities for Rachaad White to take advantage of. White leads the Bucs with 915 rushing yards, six rush touchdowns, and 1,446 scrimmage yards. The Arizona State product is a natural runner in space, making initial defenders miss. He elevates the Bucs' screen game and has become a go-to target for Baker Mayfield on checkdowns. White can stack cuts to maneuver around linebackers and is patient with his tempo. He became a focal point of Dave Canales' offense in 2023 and Sunday potentially provides the chance to boost the stat sheet. With solid body control and reliable hands as a pass-catcher, White adds another dimension to the offense.

Related Content

Latest Headlines