Panthers vs. Buccaneers: TV Schedule, Live Stream, Spread, Radio, Time and More
The Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers get the NFL season started in a matchup of complete opposites.
Carolina's bandwagon has no more room. The Panthers won an encouraging six games last year—including four of their last six—Cam Newton is a year older and the defense is much improved.
The Bucs' outlook isn't so optimistic.
Just one year removed from winning 10 games, the Bucs took a major step back in 2011, going 4-12.
But just because these squads are seemingly moving in completely different directions, expect a barn-burner on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
When: Sunday, Sept. 9 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Listen: Sirius XM Radio: 94
Stream: NFL Audio Pass
Spread: Panthers (-2.5), according to Bet365
Panthers Injuries (via ESPN)
RB Jonathan Stewart, Ankle, Questionable
LB Jon Beason, Hamstring, Probable
WR Steve Smith, Foot, Questionable
Buccaneers Injuries (via ESPN)
WR Arrelious Benn, Knee, Probable
What's At Stake
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Both teams—just like all 30 other ones—want to get the season started off with a win, albeit for very different reasons.
The Panthers are everybody and their sister's sleeper team for 2012 and thus have heavy expectations for only being a fringe playoff team. The Bucs, meanwhile, just want to return to their 2010 form after such a painfully disappointing 2011 campaign.
Cam Newton is a you're-really-crazy-or-you're-in-a-two-team-league-if-you-don't-start-him start. The man does it all, and if it's possible, he's even more valuable in the fantasy game than in the real-life game.
Steve Smith (if healthy), DeAngelo Williams (if Jonathan Stewart isn't healthy), Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson are all solid starts as well.
Start Greg Olsen and Mike Williams in deeper leagues while steering clear, for now, of Josh Freeman, Dallas Clark and Brandon LaFell.
Panthers Player to Watch: Luke Kuechly, Linebacker
Yes, Cam Newton is the obvious choice here, but if the Panthers are going to take the next step to Playoff Land (which is way better than Disney Land), the defense is going to have to be much better.
Adding an explosive defensive end or a lockdown corner is a good way to do that, but the best way to instantly improve a defense is to insert a defensive quarterback right in the middle of the field.
He may only be a rookie, but the Boston College product is a born leader. And somehow, much like Bugs Bunny, he finds a way to be everywhere on the field at the same time.
Not only will the 21-year-old challenge for the NFL tackles title right away, but he's a strong Rookie of the Year candidate and gives the Panthers much more of a formidable defense.
Buccaneers Player to Watch: Doug Martin, Running Back
Let's go ahead and stick with the rookie theme.
If it weren't for a few talented youngsters named Andrew, Robert and Russell, Doug Martin would be the favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012.
And yes, that includes Trent Richardson, the only running back taken before Martin in this year's draft.
But if exhibition play is any indication (and it often isn't), Martin is going to be a star right away. The former Boise State stud has displayed the ability to run up the middle, kick it to the outside, catch balls out of the backfield, pick up blocks, carry the veteran's bags, do the dishes, cook spaghetti and pretty much anything else you can think of.
It's worth watching to see if he carries that success to the regular season.
What They're Saying
The Charlotte Observer's Jonathan Jones points out that Carolina can afford to be cautious with Jonathan Stewart's ankle injury:
The backfield has the most depth on the team with DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert, so if Stewart experiences a little soreness while recovering from an ankle sprain, the Panthers will sit him at practice.
That’s just what they did Tuesday.
You know, the Panthers also have another RB. He goes by the name of Cam Newton.
The defending Rookie of the Year may act like a quarterback, but deep down inside, all six feet, five inches and 245 pounds make Newton purely a running back.
So, yeah, with three legitimate options to carry the ball, the Panthers can be very cautious with Stewart. Sorry, fantasy owners.
Key Matchup: Cam Newton vs. Mason Foster
In case you didn't realize by now, and in case you spent the last year under about 47 rocks (even news of Newton could get past the first 46), Cam Newton is seriously dangerous. Not only can he make just about any throw in the book on a good day, but he's always a threat to leave the pocket and make a play with his legs.
Keeping an eye on the dynamic quarterback will take a team effort from the Bucs, but the best way to slow down Newton is to have the middle linebacker spying him all game long.
That super fun task will go to sophomore Mason Foster. Despite falling to the third round, the former Washington Husky started 14 games last year for Tampa Bay and began to establish himself as one of the best young linebackers in the league.
He even got to live out a dream that many of us have when he laid out Chad Johnson.
Newton's highest rushing total of 65 yards came in Week 16 last year against Tampa Bay. He'd also racked up 54 yards earlier that month against them as well. Both of those games were routes for Carolina.
Foster, and Tampa Bay's entire linebacking corps in general, will have to be better this time around.
Who ya got?
The Buccaneers may not be as good as that 2010 season, but they also aren't as bad as last year's debacle. The added weapons of Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin will take a lot of pressure off Josh Freeman, who desperately needs to have a good season.
I think we'll see a lot of scoring in this one, but Tampa Bay will surprise people at home, where they were much better even during last year's disappointing season.
Buccaneers 31, Panthers 28
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