Tampa Bay (4-7) have lost their last five games, and defensively are struggling to stop the rushing attacks of their opponents. The Bucs have given up at least 177 yards on the ground in four of their last five games.
Those stats bode well for a Carolina team that is coming off a running explosion against the Indianapolis Colts. Carolina (3-8) piled up a season-high 201 rushing yards.
That leads us to wonder who should be considered the "X" factor for the Panthers this week. While it is important for everyone involved to play great games, there are two players who, in my opinion, have a very good chance to carry the Panthers to a gritty division win on the road and climb out of the NFC South basement.
"X" Factor No. 1: DeAngelo Williams
Williams is averaging 5.0 yards per carry for the 2011 season so far. Williams is the home run threat in the backfield, and can break some big runs against a struggling Tampa Bay defense. To date, Williams has three rushing touchdowns. That total should go up as Williams finds the end zone in Tampa Bay Sunday.
"X" Factor No. 2: Jonathan Stewart
Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart seems to never go down as the first guy hits him. Simply put, Stewart moves the chains. Stewart has a major opportunity to run crazy against the Tampa defense. Catching passes out of the backfield has been a forte of Stewart's so far this year.
The offensive philosophy has obviously changed for the Carolina Panthers this year, but the offensive line and running personnel are pretty much the same. It is my opinion that the Carolina Panthers need to take this opportunity, put these "X" factors to work and let loose a pounding running attack against a struggling Tampa Bay defense. In doing so, the Panther offense can limit the number of possessions the Panther defense has to spend on the field, as Williams and Stewart move the chains.
Look for "Double Trouble" to get the chance to explode and control the game for the Carolina Panthers.