It's a tale of two teams headed in opposite directions when the Carolina Panthers visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.
Cam Newton has been playing the best football of his career the past two games for Carolina, and the Panthers have won both games as a result.
After opening up the season with two straight losses, the Panthers have now won three of their last four contests.
The Buccaneers, on the other hand, are being led on a sinking ship by head coach Greg Schiano, who has just one win to his credit in his team's last 12 games.
Heading into Week 8, Tampa Bay has a record of 0-6. But one big victory at home could be the spark that turns this season around.
When: Thursday, Oct. 24, at 8:25 p.m. ET
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
Watch: NFL Network
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Lines (via Covers)
- Over/Under: 40.5 pts.
- Spread: Tampa Bay (+7)
Panthers Injury Report (via Panthers.com)
Buccaneers Injury Report (via Buccaneers.com)
Will Mike Glennon and Vincent Jackson Continue to Shine?
Tampa Bay features the league's second-worst scoring offense, averaging just 14.5 points per game.
Making matters worse for this team is the news that second-year running back Doug Martin was lost for the season with a torn labrum, as reported by NFL: AroundTheLeague:
Bucs lose RB Doug Martin for season with torn labrum http://t.co/qM5W0nTgnL— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) October 21, 2013
But rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has sparked the Buccaneers' offense the past couple of weeks by regularly connecting with receiver Vincent Jackson. Since the team's bye week, they have combined on 19 receptions for 252 yards and four touchdowns.
Glennon has the arm strength to take advantage of Jackson's big-play abilities, and they've already shown some impressive chemistry.
But things get tougher this Thursday night, as Carolina features the league's No. 3-ranked defense, allowing just 302.2 yards per game, and the league's No. 2-ranked scoring defense, allowing just 13.8 points per game.
If Jackson has another huge game, then the Bucs could pull off an upset.
Carolina's defense is going to dominate Tampa Bay at the point of attack. Without the threat of a legitimate running game, the Buccaneers will be forced into a one-dimensional approach, which will only make matters worse.
Which team will win?
Although Glennon and Jackson have connected with regularity the past two games for the Bucs, Tampa Bay's offensive line will be overmatched by the front seven of Carolina.
On offense, the Panthers have impressively utilized the running game to set up the pass this season, averaging 130.2 rushing yards per game.
Provided Newton takes care of the football, this is a game Carolina should win. But anything can happen—especially for road teams on short rest.
Panthers win 24-17.
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