Saturday's game between the 4-10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 5-9 Carolina Panthers doesn't have much in the way of playoff stakes. The Panthers had a pretty good idea before the season that they would once again be watching the postseason from their couches. The Bucs started the season 4-2 but have lost every game since in one of the league's more spectacular free falls.
For rookie Cam Newton, Saturday's game offers one potential bright side. He is just 17 yards away from breaking Peyton Manning's record for passing yards in a season by a rookie. Newton is all but guaranteed to break the record against the Bucs, adding punctuation on what has been a spectacular season by the former Heisman trophy winner. Newton's promise has the Panthers hopeful that they may soon return to the postseason for the first time since the 2008 season.
The prospects for the Bucs look much dimmer. Before the season began they were considered by many to be one of the league's better sleeper teams, and after a solid start everything seemed to be going according to plan. Then the bottom fell out on the defense. The Bucs have allowed 30-plus points in five of their last six losses, and rank 26th and 30th in the league in passing and rushing defense, respectively. They have scored over 20 points just once over that same span, making Tampa Bay arguably the worst team in the NFL at the moment. The Indianapolis Colts did win last week, after all.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, December 24; 1:00 p.m. ET
Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
TV Distribution Map: The506.com
Panthers: WCBS 880 AM