The Talking Plank - Week 13
The Talking Plank - Week 13 (MNF Style)
Bucs At Panthers:
Both teams come into this match-up at 9-3. If the Bucs win, they are fully in the driver's seat and can wrap up the division with just 2 more wins or a combination of losses and one win. If the Panther's win, then the Bucs will need to win next week. Doing so get's them back in front on the tie-breakers, and they can still win the Division if the Panthers fall to either the Giants or Saints (both road games). But the winner of this game is clearly in the driver's seat for the crown.
On Offense, the Bucs come in ranked 12th overall (335.4y/g), 17th in points (23.3/g), 13th passing (217.4y/g), and 11th rushing (118y/g). The Panthers are ranked 12th in overall defense (313.3y/g), 7th in points allowed (19.2/g), 11th against the pass (200.5y/g), and 19th against the run (112.8y/g). For the Bucs, this will be a tough venue to play in, as the Panthers are undeafeted at home. For the Bucs to be succesful on offense, they will need to establish the running game and will probably need to get Williams more involved. The Bucs need to attack the Panther's on the edge and run of left guard to attack the weaker areas of Carolina's run defense. If they can accomplish this, then the Bucs shouldn't have too much trouble keeping Garcia upright, assuming he doesn't keep running into sacks. Assuming Garcia is given time to throw, he'll need to find the open receiver and hit them quick, without hesitation, to keep the Panthers' secondary from defensing the pass. Last time Garcia used his tight ends well, and was able to hit 75% of his passes. I expect a similar result tonight. The Bucs should be able to move the ball pretty well. If they keep Peppers in check again, then the passing game should be able to feed off that running game and hold onto the ball. The Panthers have had trouble with teams holding the ball longer than them through an effective running game with some good play action passing. The Bucs will have some success. How much is the key. If they keep the Panthers on the sidelines for 32+ minutes, I would say the Bucs will win.
On Defense, the Bucs come in ranked 4th overall (279.5y/g), 4th in points allowed (16.7/g), 4th against the pass (184.1y/g), and 11th against the run (95.4y/g). The Panthers are ranked 17th overall (325.8y/g), 13th in points (23.8/g), 22nd passing (192.6y/g), and 7th rushing (133.2y/g). It's no secret, the Bucs need to contain Williams and Stewart in the running game to slow the Panther's' offense. If they do this, they will indeed make it tough for the Panthers to move the ball and score, much as it was a problem for them back at Ray Jay. In fact, the Delhomme has struggled more against Tampa 2 defenses this season than any other. If the Bucs can repeat their efforts against the running game, and get pressure in Jake's face, he'll likely have another bad game, and then it's all up to the offense putting up enough points. While Smith will continue to be the focus in the passing game, getting Jake bothered will do more than anything else can for the defense. Barber has been playing exceptional the last couple of games, making a lot of big plays. He was playing rather poorly the last time these teams met, which could bode very well for our secondary. If the Bucs can hold Brees in check, they can do it to Delhomme, especially with the cold conditions expected tonight. If the Bucs can man up and shut Williams and Stewart down, it will be a long game for the Panthers' offense. I do, howver, expect the Panthers to have better success than last time.
On Special Teams, the Bucs come in averaging 10 yards per punt (17.6 by Smith - 2nd in the league) and 25.3 yards per kick return. They are allowing 8.2 per punt and 20.4 per kick. The Panthers come in getting 11.1 per punt and 23.8 per kick while allowing 7.2 per punt and 21.8 per kick. The Panthers have a solid kick and punt coverage team, but they didn't face Smith in the first contest, and he could be a factor in this game where field position could be critical. On the flip side, after the Bucs held Bush to -16 yards on punt returns, and continued their excellence in kick coverage, look for them to put the brakes on the Panthers' return teams. If the Bucs can consistently win the field position battle, it could go a very long way toward winning this game. If it comes down to field goals, the Panthers' have a leg up, but Bryant seems to have a mission, so either kicker could be key in winning this game. Both punters are excellent. The coverage and return teams will determine the winner in this area. Personally, I think the Bucs are going to win the field position battle more often than not in the return game. I can also see this game coming down to a last second field goal to win it, which could go either way.
With the cold conditions tonight (37 at kickoff, falling to 36) this game isn't likely to be easy. Quite frankly, I think the Bucs are the better team, and I think Gruden has them coming in with a chip on their shoulder about not hosting the MNF and, instead, being on the road for it. That lack of respect could drive the Bucs, but the Panthers' are likely pissed about the blow out in Ray Jay. This game can easily go either way, but I'm going to call it for the Panthers, knowing full well the Bucs could repeat their earlier performance. I hope they do.
Panthers 20 Bucs 17