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Preview: Carolina at Tampa Bay
When: 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, October 4, 2015
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
The Carolina Panthers won the NFC South without even posting a .500 record last season but are looking like a team that can make it well past eight wins in 2015. Cam Newton and the Panthers will try to make it four in a row to start the season when they visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Newton is drawing some early praise thanks to his seven total touchdowns during the team’s 3-0 start, and the former No. 1 overall pick is growing more comfortable every week. “Cam is one of those guys we truly believe in him,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera told reporters. “We believe he is the face of the franchise, that’s why we made the (long-term) commitment we did going into training camp with him.” The Buccaneers have their own No. 1 pick at quarterback in rookie Jameis Winston, a Florida State product who is enduring the ups and downs of his first year in the NFL while looking up to Newton. “(Newton’s) just a great person for me to look up and kind of model my style off of what he’s been through,” Winston told reporters. “Basically, we’ve been through the same things, from (winning) the Heisman, then going to the league.”
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Panthers -3. O/U: 39.5
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (3-0): Charlotte made a move to replace defensive end Charles Johnson, who was placed on the injured reserve/designated to return list with a hamstring injury, by acquiring veteran Jared Allen from Chicago. Allen had been trying to transition to a standup end in a 3-4 defensive front in Chicago but is going back to his more familiar position of right end in a 4-3 alignment. “I understand the game with my hand on the ground,” Allen told reporters. “I feel like I can play faster, stronger, better leverage, better technique. This is where my heart and my home is, in a 4-3 defense.”
ABOUT THE BUCCANEERS (1-2): Winston sandwiched one solid performance in a Week 2 win at New Orleans between a pair of tough outings, and is trying to bounce back from a 17-of-36 passing performance in a 19-9 loss to Houston last week. Some of Winston’s struggles against the Texans stemmed from his tendency to lock in on receiver Mike Evans, who was targeted 17 times and hauled in only seven passes. “This team needs better from me, and I will get better,” Evans told reporters. “But it’s in the past; the game’s behind us… I’ll work hard in practice this week and hopefully I’ll make those plays come Sunday.”
1. Panthers LB Luke Kuechly (head) is still in the league’s concussion protocol and could miss his third straight game.
2. Tampa Bay K Kyle Brindza, who missed an extra-point attempt and three field-goal tries last week, will remain the starter.
3. Carolina has claimed the last four meetings in the series.
PREDICTION: Panthers 27, Buccaneers 13