The Buccaneers return to the 1:00pm slate for the first time since Week Three as they take on the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte. It's their second-straight divisional opponent and a repeat of the first two weeks of the season where they had both New Orleans and Carolina back to back.
So far, it's going like it did then, with the Bucs dropping their game against the Saints. Hopefully that means they win the game against the Panthers.
Tampa Bay is currently 6-3 on the season where Carolina is the mirror image at 3-6. After returning for one game, Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey looks like he'll miss this weekend's contest as he battles a shoulder injury. He didn't participate in Wednesday's practice. And though the Panthers don't have the record to show for it, especially with McCaffrey out, they've been in most every game they played. They took the Kansas City Chiefs down to the wire in Week Nine.
Throw in the fact that they are a division opponent and getting more and more used to first-year Head Coach Matt Rhule's system, and the Bucs are doing anything but overlooking the team in front of them.
Read on for how to watch the divisional matchup, along with some key facts about the game.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3) vs. Carolina Panthers (3-6)
- All-time record: Carolina leads the all-time series 24-16
- Road record: 8-12
Key Matchups (via Scott Smith)
1. Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin vs. Panthers CB Corn Elder
Chris Godwin returned for the Buccaneers last week after missing one game due to a finger fracture and subsequent surgery, and the coaches didn't exactly ease him back into action. Godwin played all but three of the team's offensive snaps, the most of any of the Bucs' wideouts. He didn't appear to have difficulty catching the ball and hauled in three passes for 41 yards on a night in which the offense as a whole was out of sync. Godwin didn't play in the Week Two game against Carolina due to a concussion, so his addition to the season series is a welcome one for Tampa Bay. Against the Saints, Tampa Bay used three and four-receiver sets on 40 of their 46 offensive plays, and on most of those, Godwin operated out of the slot, where he was one of the NFL's most effective pass-catchers during his enormous 2019 breakout season. Godwin is tough for a slot corner to handle because he's bigger and stronger than most of those opponents but is also precise in his routes, sneakily fast and able to make plays on short, intermediate and long throws. Godwin should see some matchups with Elder in the slot, and he would indeed have a size advantage on those snaps, standing 6-1 and 209 pounds to Elder's 5-10 and 185. Because of the offensive packages put on the field by Atlanta and Kansas City, Elder has played nearly 80% of his team's defensive snaps the past two weeks and he had six tackles and a forced fumble in those games combined. He has also broken up a pair of passes this season. Elder only played sparingly on defense in his first two seasons in Carolina, partially because he spent much of last year on the practice squad, but he's showing in Year Three that he can be a viable option in the slot.
2. Panthers RT Taylor Moton vs. Buccaneers OLB Shaquil Barrett
Carolina took Moton at the end of the second round in 2017 and soon they'll have to decide whether or not to invest heavily in keeping their 6-5, 325-pound right tackle around for years to come. For the past three seasons, Moton has been a point of stability for a Panthers' line that has had plenty of upheaval due to injuries and roster movement. He has started 41 straight games dating back to the start of 2018 and has proved to be a solid performer in terms of both run and pass blocking. As noted earlier, the Buccaneers did record five sacks in their Week Two win over Carolina, but three of those came from interior pass-rushers Ndamukong Suh and Will Gholston and another was recorded by blitzing safety Antoine Winfield. Jason Pierre-Paul, who generally rushes against the left tackle, had the fifth sack that afternoon. Barrett, who has been the Buccaneers' most impactful pass-rusher the past couple of weeks, did not have a sack or a quarterback hit in that game. Barrett collected his fourth sack of the season on Sunday night against New Orleans and also helped cause a pair of interceptions in Week Eight against the Giants with well-timed hits on quarterback Daniel Jones. Though Barrett is extremely unlikely to match his NFL-leading total of 19.5 sacks from last year, he is still putting a significant amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks in 2020. According to Next Gen Stats, Barrett had 34 QB pressures through the season's first eight games, which was tied for third in the NFL. After recording a pressure rate of 13.4% in 2019, he was actually up to 14.2% through the first half of this season, which was seventh in the league among all players with at least 120 pass rushes. Moton will have his hands full trying to slow down the ascending Barrett.
3. Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski vs. Saints LB Shaq Thompson
Brady tried to get the ball to his long-time teammate repeatedly in Sunday night's loss, targeting him six times, including once in the end zone. Though those two have a strong connection forged over almost a decade of playing together, it didn't work out against the Saints, as Gronkowski's six targets only resulted in one two-yard catch. Prior to that, Gronkowski had gotten on a bit of a roll, catching 17 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns over the previous four weeks. Brady isn't likely to stop targeting the big tight end, so Sunday in Charlotte could be a bounce-back game for Gronkowski against a Panthers defense that just gave up 10 catches for 159 yards on 12 targets to Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce. Obviously, it's no great shame to be torn up by Kelce, but Atlanta's Hunter Hayden had five catches for 54 yards the week before and the Saints' Jared Cook scored on them in Week Seven. Thompson has the speed and range to keep up with tight ends in coverage, though he's obviously at a bit of a size disadvantage against Gronkowski. Last season, according to Next Gen Stats, Thompson was one of the most-targeted linebackers in coverage, with the ball thrown his way 49 times (2nd-most among NFL LBs), resulting in 37 completions for 258 yards and a touchdown. Thompson does have four passes defensed this season, so he has been able to win a number of battles in coverage. Gronkowski and Thompson may also do battle at times in the ground game as the Bucs' tight end, a strong blocker, tries to clear a path for the Bucs' running backs. Thompson is the Panthers' leading tackler, with 73 stops, though almost exactly half of them have come on passing plays.
4. Panthers WR Robby Anderson vs. Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis
On Wednesday, Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians noted that one of the main reasons the Bucs' two second-year corners, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting, had recently given up a higher number of receptions while in coverage than they had earlier in the year is that opposing quarterbacks are staying away from Davis. Davis leads the team with four interceptions and leads the entire NFL in passes defensed since the start of 2019. If the Buccaneers wanted to try to take a specific Panthers receiver out of the game plan, they would probably have Davis shadow him, as the Bucs' third-year corner has done on more than one occasion. And that targeted player could be Anderson, who leads the team with 60 catches, 22 more than the next wideout on the list. Anderson has speed to burn but he's not running as many vertical routes for the Panthers as he did for the Jets, and that's reflected in his 12.5-yard per-catch average, well below what it was in New York. Anderson has proved to be a reliable weapon in the short and intermediate range; at the midway point of the season, he was ranked fifth in the NFL yards gained per route run (minimum: 100 routes), with a mark of 3.0. The Panthers do move Anderson around but he's taken 65% of his snaps on the outside, split pretty evenly between the right and left side. Davis has developed very strong man-to-man coverage skills and this year he has done a better job of finding the football and turning some of those passes defensed into interceptions.
Uniform Combination: White jersey, pewter pants, black socks
Watch on TV:
- Sunday, November 15, 2020
- Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET
- Location: Bank of America stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
- Television Network: FOX
- Broadcast Crew: Kevin Burkhardt (play by play), Daryl Johnston (color), Pam Oliver (reporter)
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Who's playing who in Week 10?
Thursday, Nov. 12
Sunday, Nov. 15
- Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (1 p.m. ET on FOX)
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers (1 p.m. ET on FOX)
- Washington Football Team at Detroit Lions (1 p.m. ET on FOX)
- Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns (1 p.m. ET on FOX)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. ET on FOX)
- Los Angeles Chargers at Miami Dolphins (4:05 p.m. ET on CBS)
- Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders (4:05 p.m. ET on CBS)
- Buffalo Bills at Arizona Cardinals (4:05 p.m. ET on CBS)
- San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX)
- Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX)
- Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX)
- Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (8:20 p.m. ET on NBC)