Bucs missing stars on both sides of the ball
The Panthers have struggled mightily through the first four games of the season. With Cam Newton now out of the mix, too, what fate awaits the defending NFC champs?
Handicappers won’t forecast doom and gloom – at least not right away. Online sports book BetDSI lists Carolina as a 6-point favorite to capture tonight’s clash against Tampa Bay. The over/under is 46.
Sitting at 1-3, Ron Rivera must turn to journeyman signal-caller Derek Anderson for the NFC South tilt at 8:30 p.m. ET. Newton remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol after going down during the Panthers’ Week 4 loss to Atlanta. The 2015 MVP owns a 6-2 career record vs. the Buccaneers.
Unfortunately for Anderson, the veteran understudy can’t lean on the team’s leading rusher, either. Jonathan Stewart continues to battle a bothersome hamstring, leaving Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne to split carries. Even blocking fullback and occasional goal-line vulture Mike Tolbert’s questionable due to a lower-body injury.
Still, the Bucs’ backfield has it worse. Dirk Koetter’s top two ball carriers, Doug Martin (hamstring) and Charles Sims (knee), are doubtful. Expect Jacquizz Rodgers, who was signed on Sept. 13, to shoulder the bulk of the load at Bank of America Stadium. Then again, he’s never recorded 20 totes in a single contest.
The visitors also look vulnerable on defense. D-tackle Gerald McCoy, a four-time Pro Bowler, keeps working his way back from a left calf strain. As for edge-rushing specialist Robert Ayers, he’s flummoxed by an ankle issue.
Such ailments greatly diminish Tampa Bay’s chances of exploiting Carolina’s Michael Oher-less offensive line. And, don’t get us started on the fact that Jameis Winston’s on pace to throw 32 interceptions. Ride with the host club here.