The Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in precarious positions just four weeks into the season. Both teams are 1-3 and running out of time to get back into the playoff race, making their Monday Night Football showdown all the more critical. The game is being televised on ESPN and can be streamed online at the WatchESPN app.
Few people predicted that the Panthers would be tied for last place in the NFC South at this point, but their secondary collapsed against the Atlanta Falcons last week and now Cam Newton is in the concussion protocol. With Newton out, Derek Anderson will get the start.
The Panthers will also be without Jonathan Stewart and cornerback James Bradberry, adding another hole to a pass defense that dearly misses Josh Norman. Bene Benwikere was the biggest victim of Julio Jones' 300-yard outburst in Week 4, getting released on Friday. Although Luke Kuechly is still playing at a high level, this is nowhere close to the same dominating defense we saw in last year's 15-1 campaign.
The Bucs have injury problems of their own, with Doug Martin and Gerald McCoy expected to miss Monday's game. Martin's backup, Charles Sims, is also dealing with a knee injury and could be forced to sit, leaving behind a depleted backfield. It's bad news for Jameis Winston, who already has eight interceptions in just four games. McCoy's absence is a huge blow to the run defense, which has been one of Tampa's few strengths this year (fourth-best in the league in rushing yards per game).
A war of attrition between two NFC South teams -- one of whom probably won't have its star quarterback -- means that this game is unlikely to reverse the trend of declining primetime NFL ratings this season, but it should be an interesting battle as each team tries to avoid the dreaded 1-4 hole.
How to watch
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Place: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Announcers: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters