There was a day when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Warren Sapp anchoring the defense, struck fear in the hearts of the NFL. Today is not that day. The Carolina Panthers go into today’s Panthers / Buccaneers game as four-point favorites and could widen the spread if quarterback Cam Newton suits up. Newton’s a game-time decision for today’s season opener, though, which makes things interesting.
Newton last season proved a lot of critics wrong, particularly in the early going. Newton last season went 292-for-473 for 3,379 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Those stats don’t tell the whole story, though, as the first few weeks of the 2013 season had sportscasters calling Newton one of the best QBs in the game.
Newton’s golden touch faded a bit as the season went on, but pundits were still looking for Newton to have a big 2014 NFL season.
If that happens, it doesn’t appear he’ll get things going early in the season again. Sources tell ESPN that Newton’s unlikely to play in today’s Buccaneers game, with Derek Anderson would be Carolina’s likely starter against Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay coach Ron Rivera has said Newton, who practiced fully on Friday, is a game-time decision due to a preseason rib injury.
The Panthers and Buccaneers faced off twice last season, both resulting in Carolina wins. Their most recent game, a 27-6 victory in December, saw Newton throw for 263 yards and two touchdown passes while also running for a touchdown. Newton missing today’s Buccaneers / Panthers game would clearly be a good thing for Tampa Bay.
Not that the Buccaneers defense needed help. Tampa Bay finished last season with the 17th-ranked defense and this season added some muscle with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. It’s the Buccaneers offense that could use a jolt in today’s Panthers game.
Tampa Bay had a dismal offense during the 2013 season. The 4-12 team ranked 32nd in the league in passing, 22nd in rushing and dead last in overall offense.
This season under coach Lovie Smith the Bucs have bolstered the offensive line with Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins, and quarterback Josh McCown is getting the nod as the starting QB. McCown has played backup for most of his career but most recently was the starting QB for the Chicago Bears after Jay Cutler went down.
Will McCown flourish in the Buccaneers new offense? Will Cam Newton be a surprise start and rekindle his early 2013 magic? You can find out by watching the game live on TV on Fox. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:25pm EST / 1:25pm PST. Or, you can also watch Panthers vs Buccaneers live free online streaming via DirecTV’s website if you have the NFL Sunday Ticket MAX package. That package requires a subscription, but all subscribers can watch the game online free via the DirecTV live stream if they’re stuck watching via their smartphone, tablet or PC.