Game Predictions & Player Projections - TB vs. CAR

David Dorey, @DMDorey

Prediction: TB 14, CAR 27 (Line: CAR by 4.5, O/U 44.5)

UPDATE: Doug Martin and Cecil Shorts remain out as expected. Charles Sims has not practiced this week because of his knee and I will revisit this on Saturday to update if needed. Devin Funchess was able to return to a full practice on Friday and should play on Monday though he's been mostly unproductive anyway. Cam Newton has not practiced and is not being added to the projections. He has not been officially ruled out yet though that could happen on Saturday.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Cam Newton is officially out and Charles Sims did not practice at all this week and and is considered doubtful. I am removing both from the projections and increasing Jacquizz Rodgers as the starter.

The battle of the 1-3 records wasn't supposed to include the Panthers but here we are. That dominating defense from 2015 must still be at the Super Bowl NFC Championship game. This should - SHOULD - be a solid win for the Panthers who swept the Buccaneers in 2015. They won 37-23 on the road and later 38-10 to end the regular season. Whether or not Cam Newton plays, this should be a Panthers win. This is the Monday night game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1 @ATL 31-24 10 CHI ---
2 @ARI 7-40 11 @KC ---
3 LA 32-37 12 SEA ---
4 DEN 7-27 13 @SD ---
5 @CAR --- 14 NO ---
6 BYE --- 15 @DAL ---
7 @SF --- 16 @NO ---
8 OAK --- 17 CAR ---
9 ATL ---      
News | Statistics | Roster
TB @ CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Jameis Winston 10 240,2
RB Jacquizz Rodgers 50 5-30
WR Mike Evans 5-50,1
WR Adam Humphries 4-50
WR Vincent Jackson 3-40
TE Cameron Brate 5-60,1
PK Roberto Aguayo 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The Buccaneers lone win was over the Falcons - hard to believe now - and this week should be as bad a matchup as they will get all year. After the bye in Week 6, the schedule really clears up though and then becomes a dream for Weeks 13 to 16 when you need them the most. The season is already starting to get away from the Buccaneers but this is a young team that will continue to develop and improve.

QUARTERBACK : Jameis Winston has been to both extremes this season with seven touchdowns thrown over two games and yet only one over the other two. Winston has tossed an uncharacteristic eight interceptions so far though six came from facing the Broncos and Cardinals - somewhat understandable. Winston was held in check in those two games and yet posted 405 yards and three scores on the visiting Rams. Bottom line this week is that the Bucs are on the road against a good defense, even if they are also 1-3.

RUNNING BACK : Doug Martin is expected back in Week 7 after the bye. Charles Sims was stuffed by the Broncos and only gained 35 total yards but he ran for 55 and one score plus added six catches for 69 yards versus the Rams. Jacquizz Rodgers is getting half a dozen carries too lately but only one catch. The problem this week is that they are on the road where the Bucs have never rushed well this year. And Sims scored the lone rushing touchdown of the year a few weeks ago.

WIDE RECEIVER : Mike Evans finally had a game without a score thanks to the Broncos but he's been rock solid in every other matchup. That was his first game without at least 79 yards and a touchdown and he still posted five receptions for 59 yards. Vincent Jackson just mails in 40 yards each week and then goes golfing. Adam Humphries teased with 100 yards on nine catches versus the Rams but then went back to just one catch for four yards last Sunday. Evans owns all the wideout touchdowns.

TIGHT END : Cameron Brate is making the most of his opportunity with Austin Sefarian-Jenkins gone. After scoring twice in his five catches for 46 yards in the loss to the Rams, he caught five passes for 67 yards against the Broncos. he's not a difference maker but he is becoming moderately consistent.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: This game could take on different game plans depending on whether Cam Newton is playing or not. Their offensive success would impact the defensive needs. Aside from the insane 503 yards that they just allowed to the Falcons, the Panthers are tougher at home and have not allowed more than 243 yards and two passing scores there. Winston has been all over the map in terms of production but he is good enough to get at least what the average opponent produces when facing a defense. He should be safe for at least moderate yardage and one score with a good shot at two since the rushing effort looks to be bad.

The Panthers have not allowed more than 45 yards to any rusher in Carolina and that is not going to change with Sims as the starter. Sims will need to show up as a receiver to produce even moderate yardage.

The secondary has been outstanding aside from that whole Julio Jones/300 yards thing. Playing this in their stadium will make a difference and the Panthers are feeling plenty wounded after last week. Evans is still a good start but less likely to have a big game in Carolina. Brate is also a reasonable play given that the Panthers have allowed four scores to the position including one each in their previous home games.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points TB 6 25 12 6 32 18
Preventing Fantasy Points CAR 27 14 9 28 17 31

Carolina Panthers

1 @DEN 20-21 10 KC ---
2 SF 46-27 11 NO ---
3 MIN 10-22 12 @OAK ---
4 @ATL 33-48 13 @SEA ---
5 TB --- 14 SD ---
6 @NO --- 15 @WAS ---
7 BYE --- 16 ATL ---
8 ARI --- 17 @TB ---
9 @LA ---      
News | Statistics | Roster
CAR vs TB Rush Catch Pass
QB Derek Anderson 280,2
RB Cameron Artis-Payne 50
RB Fozzy Whittaker 20,1 6-40
WR Kelvin Benjamin 7-100,2
WR Philly Brown 4-60
WR Devin Funchess 2-30
TE Greg Olsen 6-80
PK Graham Gano 2 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: Last week hurt and not just because Cam Newton suffered a concussion. The loss cemented the reality that this is not the same team as 2015 and more so, this is not even close to the same defense. The departure of CB Josh Norman seems glaring now though in fairness Jones tore them up last year as well - just not record-book-bad. On the positive, the schedule is about to get much easier and while Denver was a lock to be tough, both the Vikings and Falcons have been major surprises so far. If Newton cannot play this week, the Panthers should still be fine since this should be one of the softest matchups of the year.

QUARTERBACK : Derek Anderson has only started two games for the Panthers and they were in 2014. And both went against the Buccaneers. Same as this week. That beats some pretty long odds. Anderson was more than capable last week when he stepped in and completed 17 of 23 for 172 yards and two touchdowns against two interceptions. he benefited from the Falcons guarding the deep ball but Anderson is at least average for a back-up. At home versus a soft defense, he should at least maintain the offense.

RUNNING BACK : Jonathan Stewart is week-to-week and should miss this one. In his place, Cameron Artis-Payne was every bit as ineffective as he was last year and is showing why he wasn't even active the first two weeks. Fozzy Whitaker has been far more productive though mostly as a receiver. No Panthers back has scored this year. The same rotation should happen again though at least they at home this week. Artis-Payne ran for 47 yards on 12 carries in the previous home game when the Vikings visited.

WIDE RECEIVER : Devin Funchess injured his toe last week and may not be available. After opening with two big games, Kelvin Benjamin was held to no catches by the Vikings. He bounced back with a score on his three catches for 39 yards while dealing with the Denver secondary. Benjamin remains the only real fantasy play in this unit and Devin Funchess has been a disappointment after much preseason hype.

TIGHT END : Greg Olsen remains one of the most consistent tight ends in the NFL. He not only has managed at least 64 yards each week and scored in two of the last three including last week in Atlanta when he ended with six receptions for 76 yards.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: The Panthers should be fine here, especially at home. The Buccaneers have allowed at least two passing scores to every opponent and that includes Case Keenum. The yardage may not be as high this week but Anderson should be good enough for those scores and moderate production.

The Bucs are also weaker against running backs and given up four rushing scores over the last three games. Artis-Payne and Whitaker are unlikely to have a big game but there is a legitimate chance that one of them scores.

The Bucs rank great against tight ends but have not faced any decent ones. The best was Jacob Tamme who caught six passes for 51 yards. Olsen is a fine start - forget the rankings. The Bucs are also weak versus the pass and gave up all of their touchdowns allowed to wideouts. All nine of them. Benjamin is a strong play this week.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CAR 2 26 18 2 10 6
Preventing Fantasy Points TB 22 22 31 4 28 28

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