By Max Luckan
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers find themselves on a three-game winning streak, in which they have played their best football of the season.
Unfortunately for them, so have the Carolina Panthers. All the Panthers have done recently is win seven games in a row. They have also been playing their best football of the season, and the team is very confident, especially in its leader quarterback Cam Newton.
Bucs head coach Greg Schiano has to be relieved, having racked up three wins now, but he knows the team still has plenty of work to do. And unfortunately for the Bucs, the injuries appear to be stacking up.
Panthers Season Record
As mentioned earlier, the Panthers are currently riding a seven-game winning streak and have all the momentum in the world. They have a current record of 8-3, which is good for second in the NFC South behind the New Orleans Saints, who hold a 9-2 record.
Two weeks ago, the Panthers were able to defeat the New England Patriots 24-20, in what was probably the team's biggest win this season. They also have key wins against the Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins, and San Francisco 49ers, which shows just how consistent the team has been as of late.
Panthers on Offense
Most people aren't talking about Carolina's offense, and not without good reason. Currently, the Panthers rank 18th in points per game and 26th in the entire NFL in yards per game, which shows that the offense hasn't exactly been explosive this season.
Still, they are led by quarterback Cam Newton, who has matured greatly this season and has become a real leader. The focal point of Carolina's offense remains Newton, whose dual-threat capabilities are a priority for other teams. After all, Newton has been the team's leading rusher the past two games.
The passing game has been practically nonexistent, so if teams want to slow down the Panthers, they have to make stopping the run a top priority.
Panthers on Defense
Now, everyone has been talking about the play of the Panthers defense. The defense is currently ranked third in the NFL, allowing an average of 297.5 yards per game.
Linebacker Luke Kuechly has emerged as a star in the NFL and has been one of the team's best players on this side of the ball, particularly in stopping the run. The Panthers are also currently ranked third in the league in stopping the run, so it is very hard to run the football against Carolina's strong front seven.
In order to beat the Panthers, opposing teams have to throw the ball well, but even that is difficult because Carolina's pass rush has been extremely effective lately.
Panthers Players to Watch
Cam Newton: There's no question that Newton is the team's leader. It won't be easy for the Bucs to stop him, especially if they are missing key players on defense.
Luke Kuechly: He already has three interceptions and 93 tackles this season. And remember, he's only 22 years old.
Charles Johnson: Johnson already has 8.5 sacks this season and has been getting after opposing quarterbacks with ease. The Bucs will have to find a way to stop him. Johnson was sidelined for last Sunday's contest against Miami due to an injury, if he is healthy enough to play against Tampa, he'll be a huge threat.
These teams have an interesting history. Now, the Panthers lead the all-time series 15-11, but this game will be exciting as Greg Schiano and Ron Rivera have their respective teams playing very good football.
For more Bucs news and updates, visit Bucs Central.
Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. Max is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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