After an dreadful 0-5 start, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers return home to the friendly confines of Raymond James Stadium and face the team that began their demise in '08, the division rival Carolina Panthers.
With both teams entering the game at 9-3, Tampa Bay gave up 299 yards rushing and were crushed 38-23. The loss sent the Bucs into a tailspin they have yet to recover from.
The Panthers represent possibly the last chance the Bucs have to register a victory in 2009.
Look at the schedule if you dare. Where do you see the first win if not this week?
The Bucs will not be favored to win any of their remaining games. While parity makes "Any Given Sunday" more than a cliche, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played poorly against good teams and bad teams alike.
So where does that leave you? This could be Raheem's last stand.
So can they do it against the 1-3 Carolina Panthers?
Series: Carolina leads the series 10-7, winning the last meeting 38-23.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Attack against Carolina Panthers Pass Defense
The Eagles blitzed Johnson on nearly every passing attempt, yet he played fairly well, tossing 240 yards and two touchdowns.
On the flipside, Johnson also had three interceptions and his wide receivers dropped six passes in the game.
Carolina comes in with the NFL's 2nd ranked pass defense in the league, but that may be more due to their porous run defense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Running Attack vs. Carolina Panthers Run Defense
One of the biggest losses this season has been the absence of starting center Jeff Faine for the Buccaneer's offense. Faine returns to the lineup for the Bucs, just in time to face the 30th ranked run defense in the NFL.
Running back Cadillac Williams will again look to establish a strong running attack while Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham look to give the Bucs the three-headed monster they once believed they would have.
Running the football is the key in this game for the Buccaneers. If Tampa Bay can get their running game on track behind Jeff Faine, the Bucs keep the pressure off of Johnson and give themselves a solid chance to win the game.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
Carolina Panthers Passing Game vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Defense
Offense has a big time challenge for the Panthers. Averaging only 14 points a game, Carolina's entire package has struggled.
Jake Delhomme has been downright dreadful, throwing eight interceptions in his first four games and narrowly escaped being benched.
Steve Smith is still a dangerous weapon and the Buccaneers desperately need to keep the "Buc Killer" in check.
The Bucs pass defense continued to struggle against the deep ball against Philadelphia.
If the Bucs can avoid the big play against their defense, they might be able to force Delhomme into some turnovers.
Carolina Panthers Running Game vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Run Defense
The last time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced the Carolina Panthers, the Bucs gave up 299 yards rushing.
While DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart remain on the roster, this isn't the same Carolina offense.
The Panthers' offensive line simply hasn't been getting the job done.
The Bucs defense has been better against the run their last two games after weeks of struggling against the run and the pass.
If Tampa Bay can keep the dynamic duo of the Panthers in check, they can force the game into the hands of Delhomme.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Special Teams vs. Carolina Panthers Special Teams
Bucs Head Coach Raheem Morris was so concerned about new kicker Shane Andrus, he went for it several times on fourth down during the game against the Eagles. The lack of point production came back to hurt the Bucs.
In a potentially low scoring ballgame, the kicking game will be important for Tampa Bay.
John Kasay is about as solid as they come in as a kicker and is good again this season, 9 of 10 in field goals this season.
While the Bucs are at a significant disadvantage at kicker, they have huge advantage in return and coverage units. The Panthers aren't very strong at returning kicks or punts. They're not good in coverage either, while Tampa Bay is solid in both areas.
Bucs Pro Bowl returner Clifton Smith has yet to break a long run, this could be the week. The Bucs also added speedy Yamon Figurs to add some spice to the return game.
- Carolina is a league worst minus nine in turnover ratio
- The Bucs and Panthers have split the season series three of the last four years.
- Jake Delhomme is 8-2 in 10 starts against Tampa Bay
Raheem Morris is in his first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he is 0-5.
John Fox is in his eighth year as head coach of the Carolina Panthers. Fox is 64-52, has won three division championships and one NFC championship.
Prediction: Earlier this season, I wrote that I wouldn't pick the Bucs again this season. Well, I'm going back on my word. The match ups seem to favor the Bucs in this game, they're at home and there's that word desperation.
Carolina got of the snide last week with a win against Washington, rallying from a 15 point deficit to pull off the win.
The Bucs are a more desperate football team. Murmurs from practices this week talk about this game being a must win for the Raheem Morris regime. Another loss could fracture the locker room and essentially destroy any remaining confidence the team has.
This is a huge game for Coach Morris and his staff, they have to win this game.
With the return of Faine (and hopefully the Tampa Bay running game) as well as the continued maturation of young Josh Johnson, the Bucs have their best chance to get their first victory.
Final Score: Tampa Bay 20, Carolina 13.
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