Tampa has taken a completely different route this season then the Panthers. Despite suffering a hand full of devastating injuries, including Adrian Clayborn, Carl Nicks, and Davin Joseph, they have kept it together to over .500 at this point in the season. Now, at 5-4 they have plenty of games left to continue to prove they are for real. For now though, they are one of the hottest teams in the NFL with 3 straight wins and 4 out of their last 5. Doug Martin may be the hottest player in football right now, putting up record setting numbers each week. He isn’t likely to be slowed down by the Panthers mediocre defense. Still, he isn’t invulnerable. He was limited on the ground last week, but made his damage on the receiving end. It won’t be easy to stop him, but they do have some hope.
Josh Freeman is also having a nice bounceback season. With top WR Vincent Jackson in the fold, he is showing some of that big play ability he showed back in 2010. With Mike Williams flowing well again, the whole offense has been very impressive for over a month now. That is a scary combination they have, which has led to some big points.
The defense, however, is a different story. The have been burned through the air all year long, which could mean a big day for Cam Newton. With Aqib Talib shipped off to New England, and Eric Wright nursing an Achilles injury, things are only getting worse. The pass rush has been mostly non existent as well, leaving a lot of yards through the air. The rush D has been pretty great, though, so Stewart may not have his best game. It will be interesting to see if they go back to the rotation with Williams. I think this would be a poor decision by Rivera as it will be difficult to get in any rhythm against a tough Tampa run D if you are constantly taken out of the game.
Either way, I think this is game Carolina losses. They just don’t have the talent to keep up with Tampa, and the drive to win is much lower than a scorching team. Carolina will play hard, but at the end the day I think the Tampa offense is too much.