Panthers at Bucs Preview

Tampa, FL - The Carolina Panthers understand the relief that comes with finally ending a season-opening losing streak. They don't want the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to experience that this week.

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The Panthers look to build on their first victory Sunday when they visit the Buccaneers, who are trying to avoid their first 0-6 start in 24 years.

Oddsmakers from online sports book have made the Panthers -3 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 79% of bets for this game have been placed on the Panthers -3 (View NFL bet percentages).

Carolina (1-3) overcame a 15-point third-quarter deficit and avoided its first 0-4 start since 1998 with Sunday's 20-17 win over Washington.

"You talk about a monkey on your back, this was a gorilla,'' coach John Fox said after the Panthers' third-largest comeback in team history.

Sunday's victory was anything but a dominating offensive effort for Carolina, which totaled 248 yards and was 4 of 12 on third-down conversions. But quarterback Jake Delhomme was more than satisfied with the defending NFC South champs finally getting their first victory.

"Anything that could have gone wrong the first month or so has gone wrong,'' Delhomme said after completing 16 of 25 passes for 181 yards, one touchdown and one interception. "We'll take it any way we can get it."

Delhomme, who has thrown a league-high eight picks, completed a 17-yard TD pass to Jeff King in the third quarter and connected with Steve Smith on a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter after Jonathan Stewart's first touchdown run of the season.

Delhomme, 8-2 in 10 career starts versus Tampa Bay, threw one TD and was intercepted five times as the Panthers and Buccaneers split two meetings in 2008.

Stewart has rushed for 138 yards in 2009, far off the pace from his rookie 2008 season, which he finished with 836 yards and 10 TDs on the ground. Stewart could have a good chance to get back on track this week against a Tampa Bay team giving up 152.6 rushing yards per game, fifth-most in the league.

Stewart carried 15 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-23 win over visiting Tampa Bay on Dec. 8 of last season.

Teammate DeAngelo Williams ran for a franchise-record 186 yards and two TDs in that game as he and Stewart became the sixth set of running backs since 1960 with 100-plus rushing yards and two touchdowns in the same contest.

While Carolina's running attack has gone from first in the league last season to 23rd in 2009, Tampa Bay (0-5) has also experienced a dip in production from its backfield while losing its first five games for the first time since 1996.

The Buccaneers were 15th in the league in rushing in 2008 - averaging 114.8 yards - but they are 26th this season with 94.6. Leading rusher Cadillac Williams matched a season low with eight yards in Sunday's 33-14 loss at Philadelphia.

"Cadillac made some plays on his own. ... It would have been the same result if no one else had been out there. They need to hear that,'' Buccaneers first-year coach Raheem Morris said after the team's ninth consecutive loss. "We need to give the young man some help. At the same time, if you're not successful, it's hard to stay committed to it.''

Morris, though, remains committed to quarterback Josh Johnson as Tampa Bay looks to snap its longest slide since the Buccaneers' league-record 26-game skid from 1976-77.

Making his second career start, Johnson completed 26 of 50 passes for 240 yards, two TDs and three interceptions against the Eagles.

Johnson and the Buccaneers could be 0-6 for the first time since 1985 if the Panthers' defense repeats its effort from Sunday, when it allowed a season-low in points and rushing yards (74).

After recording four sacks in its first three games, Carolina had five against the Redskins, with two coming from four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers.

"He was lively out there,'' linebacker Thomas Davis said of Peppers, who also had two tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries and helped Carolina force a safety. "He was running around, making plays. But what he was also doing for us was keeping guys up. Whenever something bad would happen on offense, special teams, or even defense, he stepped in as a leader.''

Peppers had 1 1/2 sacks and a blocked extra-point in the Dec. 8 win over Tampa Bay.

Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Bryant caught nine passes for a career-high 200 yards and two touchdowns in that game, one of his six 100-yard performances during his breakout season. Bryant, though, has totaled 12 catches for 141 yards in 2009.

The Buccaneers' 27-3 win over Carolina last October 12 snapped the Panthers' five-game winning streak in Tampa Bay.

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Posted: 10/14/09 8:15PM ET

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