Buccaneers vs. Panthers 2012 game preview: Tampa Bay seeks four straight wins, sweep against Carolina

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The Buccaneers will try to continue improving their standing in the NFC playoff picture when they visit the Panthers on Sunday.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won three straight and are eyeing the playoffs as they try to sweep their division rival Carolina Panthers in Week 11 on Sunday. Tampa Bay defeated Carolina at home in the season-opener, 16-10, after intercepting two passes off Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Carolina is only 1-4 at home this season, as the Panthers have struggled through close losses and blowouts alike. After a statistically impressive rookie season, Newton has also regressed, throwing for 2,143 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions so far this season.

Meet the Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are coming off a 36-14 loss at home to the Denver Broncos in Week 10 after notching their second win of the season in Week 9 over the Washington Redskins, 21-13. In all, Carolina has lost six games by eight points or fewer this season.

In allowing 24.0 points per game, the Panthers rank 21st in the league, while their scoring average of 18.1 points per contest is good for 27th in the NFL. Newton leads the team in rushing, with 354 yards on the ground and four touchdowns.

Meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After a three-game losing streak earlier in the season, Tampa Bay has rattled off wins in four of their last five contests. Currently, the Buccaneers are eighth in the NFC postseason picture, behind the Minnesota Vikings (in seventh place) and Seattle Seahawks (sixth).

Along with league's top-ranked rushing defense (allowing 80.1 yards per game), Tampa Bay's offense has scored at least 28 points in each of their last five games. During that stretch, quarterback Josh Freeman has thrown for 13 touchdowns and only one interception.

Local Takes: Panthers

Blogger Son of a Newton from Cat Scratch Reader says the last meeting with Tampa Bay might point to how Carolina could attack them offensively:

"On offense, I expect we will attack the Tampa secondary and LB Corps. Greg Olsen should be a factor. If our last meeting is any indicator, the Buccaneers protect the middle of the field quite well, so look for corner routes, and curls to attack the sideline. If the Bucs play tight coverage, expect more of the skinny posts and crossing routes that we have seen over the past few weeks."

Local Takes: Buccaneers

Sander Philipse of Bucs Nation says Tampa Bay's postseason, and even division title, hopes keep getting better:

"They (Tampa Bay) can't really afford to drop any other games if they want to win the division title. That may be a little too much to ask, considering that road games against the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints are still left on the calendar. A wild card berth is a lot more realistic, and Tampa Bay's chances certainly improved in that area."

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Cat Scratch Reader and Bucs Nation, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@CatScratchReadr

@Bucs_Nation

@SteveReedAP - Carolina Panthers writer for the Associated Press.

@NFLSTROUD - Rick Stroud, covers the Buccaneers/NFL for the Tampa Bay Times.

Prediction

From the Week 11 picks:

More people should be talking about the Bucs. They're 5-4, winners of three in a row and currently one of the top offenses in the game. Did anyone realize this is the third-ranked offense right now? They haven't had fewer than four touchdowns in a game since September. This is one of the hottest teams in football right now.

The pick: 30-20, Buccaneers.

Odds

The Panthers opened the week as 1½-point favorites, according to OddsShark, but the line has since shifted from anywhere to even odds to favoring the Buccaneers by two points. The over/under point total for the game currently sits at 48½ points.

Next Week

The Panthers will visit the Philadelphia Eagles under the primetime lights of Monday night in Week 12. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, hosts the Atlanta Falcons in a big divisional clash on Sunday afternoon.

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