Two of the league's most promising young passers haven't quite looked like themselves in disappointing starts to 2016. They'll try to get their seasons back on track when Jameis Winston's Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Charlotte to face Cam Newton's Carolina Panthers in a Monday Night Football showdown.
Winston has been mired in an epic sophomore slump one-quarter of the way through his second year. The 2015 Rookie of the Year runner-up has seen his turnover rate skyrocket as his Buccaneers have fallen to a 1-3 start despite high preseason hopes. He's on pace for 40 turnovers after four games, and even though he's completing a similar percentage of his passes as last year, is throwing for 1.3 fewer yards per pass attempt.
Despite Winston's wealth of offensive weapons, opposing defenses have adjusted their schemes and forced him into bad decisions. The young passer has been unable to maximize his return from standouts like Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, who have combined for nearly 500 yards between them but only three touchdowns. So far in 2016, the young passer has been more likely to turn the ball over than find the end zone.
Of course, it certainly doesn't help that only one team in the NFL -- the New Orleans Saints -- has allowed more points per game than Tampa's 31. Those lapses mean the Bucs have to win shootouts if they're going to win at all. Winston's struggle to make connections downfield has Tampa Bay unable to cover for its shoddy defense and mired in the NFC South basement.
But the Buccaneers aren't alone. The defending NFC Champions are right there with them, thanks in part to a sluggish start from reigning league MVP Newton. His quarterback rating has dropped from last season's career-high 99.4 to a career-low 80.2 thanks in part to a 2:4 TD:INT ratio in his team's losses this season. He was ineffective in Carolina's season-opening loss to Denver thanks in part to a Broncos pass rush whose strategy boiled down to taking as many headshots on the mobile quarterback as the referees would allow (spoiler: it was a lot).
He ate another vicious tackle against the Falcons in Week 4, sending him into the league's concussion protocol and making him questionable for Monday's showdown with the Bucs.
If Newton can't go, the Panthers will turn to former Pro Bowler Derek Anderson behind center. The veteran passer was solid in relief last week, completing 17 of his 23 passes for a pair of touchdowns to bring Carolina within eight points of Atlanta late in the fourth quarter. However, he finished his afternoon with a pair of rally-squashing interceptions to seal his team's fate at 1-3.
The outcome of Monday night's game will deal a major blow to the loser's postseason hopes. Since 1990, only 12 of the league's 300 playoff teams started their season with a 1-4 record. While the NFC South may still be winnable -- everyone but Atlanta has matching 1-3 records -- the road to respectability starts on Monday night.
How to watch Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
Announcers: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters
Online Streaming: WatchESPN