The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) will try to go 2-0 in divisional play when they take on the Carolina Panthers (3-0) on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Here are a few individual matchups that could play a key role in determining the outcome of this showdown in Houston:
WR Mike Evans vs. CB Josh Norman
Last season, Mike Evans averaged 15.5 yards per catch, tied for 11th in the league. In last week's game, QB Jameis Winston averaged 15.4 yards per completion, showing the Bucs are not afraid to push the ball down the field, and that bodes well for Evans' chances for big gains again in 2015. He'll likely square up against Norman, who leads the Panthers with two interceptions and five passes defensed.
LB Lavonte David vs. LB Thomas Davis
Last week, Lavonte David had his best outing of the year, posting 14 tackles and two stuffs, bringing his season tackle total to 27, tied for seventh-most in the league. Davis is just two tackles behind, leading his team with 25. Both playmakers will look to add to their totals while keeping the opposing offense out of the end zone.
CB Tim Jennings vs. QB Cam Newton
Of course all the Buccaneers cornerbacks will play a big role in limiting Cam Newton, but this matchup has an interesting past. Jennings has recorded four pass breakups (T-2nd), two interceptions (T-1st) and one INT-TD (T-1st) against Newton in just three meetings between the two.
OT Gosder Cherilus vs. DE Mario Addison
Cherilus performed well last week against the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt. He ended with a 1.4 grade (9th-best among RTs) and just one QB hit allowed according to Pro Football Focus. This week, he'll ward off Addison, Carolina's sack leader. The other side of the line, potentially LT Donovan Smith vs. newest Panther DE Jared Allen, is also a clash to keep an eye on.
DE Jacquies Smith vs. T Michael Oher
Jacquies Smith still sits alone atop the NFL sack leaderboard with four on the year. After piling up three against the Saints, Smith will have to go through veteran Michael Oher if he hopes to continue his pass rush dominance of NFC South opponents. Smith has also caused two fumbles in the Bucs' three games.
LB Kwon Alexander vs. TE Greg Olsen
After compiling 1,008 receiving yards last year, Greg Olsen is off to another hot start, leading Carolina in receptions (15), yards (215) and receiving touchdowns (2). Coming off a 134- yard week, he'll have to contend with Kwon Alexander, who leads all NFL rookies in tackles (23) and has compiled five passes defensed and an interception so far.