by Sharon Thorsland
Wow, it’s been a week for the Panthers. They lost to the Rams, traded away disgruntled receiver Robbie Anderson after his sideline tantrum, and then sent star running back Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers. For Panthers fans, that one really hurts. But as CMC himself said following the firing of Matt Rhule, the world keeps spinning. There is a game to be played Sunday, and it’s a tough one – Tom Brady and the Bucs come to town for an NFC South match up. The Bucs might not be 1-5, but they’re having their own issues this season. They’ve lost three of their last four games, including last week’s surprising loss to the Steelers, and are just 3-3 on the year.
So no doubt Brady will be ticked off, he’s thrown just eight touchdowns this season and hasn’t been able to get the offense moving. He’s playing behind a dinged up offensive line that is missing three starters. And the Bucs running game is ranked dead last in the NFL averaging just 67 yards per game. Most of those come from All-Pro back Leonard Fournette, who has also turned into Brady’s top target after the retirement of tight end Rob Gronkowski. Fournette has 32 catches and three touchdowns, plus another on the ground.
Brady has a ton of other weapons at his disposal – All-Pro receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Julio Jones plus tight ends Cameron Brate and former Viking Kyle Rudolph. So where do you start trying to slow them down? “Tom Brady, of course,” said Panthers linebacker Damien Wilson. “He’s the head of the snake. When you got him, you gotta start planning for him first and then everyone else falls in line.”
The Bucs defense has been very good this season, they rank 7th in the league in total defense, run defense and passing defense, and are giving up just 17 points a contest. That’s not good news for the Panthers, who will start PJ Walker at quarterback again and not longer have McCaffrey, who accounted for most of their offense. The Bucs have a solid front seven with a trio of outstanding linebackers in Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David and Devin White. They’ve also got a ton of talent in the secondary, starting with Antoine Winfield, Jr., who has three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. The Panthers were already dead last in the league in total offense with McCaffrey, so things aren’t looking good for them against this Bucs defense.