The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) will take the nationally-televised stage on Monday night when they take on the Carolina Panthers (1-3) at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here are a few individual matchups that could play a key role in determining the outcome of this Week Five contest:
1. RB Jacquizz Rodgers vs. DT Kawann Short
The Bucs have been without RBs Doug Martin and Charles Sims at practice this week, which could mean a lot of playing time for Rodgers, who has been in red and pewter for just under a month. The Panthers are allowing the 10th-fewest rushing yards per game (90.2) and that starts up front with Kawann Short, who has 15 tackles this season and is ranked 12th by Pro Football Focus in run defense for interior linemen.
- QB Jameis Winston vs. LB Luke Kuechly**
In Jameis Winston's Thursday press conference he brought up "Number 59" a few times, referring to three-time All-Pro Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, who is second in the NFL in tackles and also has a sack and interception this season. Winston must protect the football and avoid turnovers for the Buccaneers to leave Charlotte with a win. A very important key to doing that will be knowing exactly where #59 is on the field at all times.
3. WR Mike Evans vs. Panthers' Secondary
Last week, Atlanta's Julio Jones became just the fourth receiver in NFL history to put up 300+ yards in a single game. He accomplished this feat against the Carolina Panthers' secondary. Mike Evans is one of two NFL WRs who sit in the Top 10 in receptions, receiving yards AND receiving touchdowns through four weeks. As the most targeted receiver in the NFL right now, Evans could be in for some big numbers against a secondary that was exposed in Atlanta, at least for that afternoon.
4.DT Clinton McDonald vsC Ryan Kalil
The Buccaneers entered last week's contest without defensive linemen Robert Ayers and Jacquies Smith. During the game, they lost DT Gerald McCoy and DE Noah Spence (neither of whom have practiced so far this week). After the game, Coach Koetter pointed out the importance of Clinton McDonald stepping up for the depleted line, posting eight tackles and 1.5 sacks in the game. If the Bucs are playing with a thin front four again in this one, it will be on McDonald to lead the pass rush in its attempt to keep Carolina's quarterback uncomfortable and inefficient in the pocket. At the moment, however, McDonald has also been limited in practices this week.
Pictures of the Panthers' starting offense and defense, according to the team's depth chart.
- LB Lavonte David vs TE Greg Olsen**
As has been the case for the last three years, Greg Olsen currently leads the Panthers in receiving yards with 335 on 24 catches. In 11 games against the Buccaneers, he has performed just below his average with 43.5 yards per game, but has only found the end zone twice. The Panthers have lined up Olsen at many spots in their offense, so it is not just the job of one Buccaneer to limit his production in this one. Lavonte David could be one of the defenders called upon to shadow Olsen. David has 21 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble through four games.
- CB Brent Grimes vs.WR Kelvin Benjamin
Kelvin Benjamin has four touchdowns through four games, scoring on a quarter of his receptions. The chemistry is definitely there between the third-year receiver and QB Cam Newton, but if the reigning MVP is out for this Monday Night matchup, it will be Derek Anderson looking Benjamin's way. Brent Grimes will likely be tasked with covering Benjamin throughout this game. Shutting down the big wide receiver will go a long way in getting the Bucs defense off the field and putting the ball back in the hands of Jameis Winston.