The Carolina Panthers go into tonight’s ESPN Thursday Night Football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the most-hyped 3-3 team in the NFL. The Panthers had high hopes for the season, and although they hold top-10 positions in two separate statistical categories, quarterback Cam Newton hasn’t led the offense to seal the deal. That may change tonight, as the Panthers travel to Tampa Bay to take on the 0-6 Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff on ESPN is scheduled for 8:25 EST / 5:25 PST, and if you can’t watch it live on HDTV you can watch Thursday Night Football free live online using one of several different methods. Meanwhile, here’s a game preview to tide you over.
The Buccaneers have had a miserable season, ranking near the bottom of the NFL in every statistical category other than defense. Tampa Bay has managed just the 31st-ranked offense, 29th-ranked passing game and 20th-ranked rushing attack, with Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon having gone a mere 76-130 for 722 yards and five touchdowns on the season. Defensively the Bucs have managed the 13th-ranked defense in the NFL, but that’s still barely in the top half of the league.
The Carolina Panthers’ offense hasn’t fared much better, ranking just 23rd behind a meager 28th-rated passing attack that’s seen QB Cam Newton go 108-170 for 1,331 yards and 10 TDs. But when you watch Thursday Night Football free live online using the links above or below, you’ll see a Bucs rushing game that ranks seventh in the NFL so far this season. Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams has racked up 434 yards this season, but QB Cam Newton has been a bit of a surprise, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Newton carrying the ball himself hasn’t been the surprise of course, but his paltry 179 on the ground have been.
The bigger story with the Panthers this season has been their defense, which should absolutely feast on the Buccaneers low-ranked offense. Adding to the turmoil is the Buccaneers release a few weeks ago of franchise quarterback Josh Freeman, who’s now playing (albeit poorly) for the Minnesota Vikings. The Bucs also learned a few days ago that they’ve lost their star running back. Without that rushing game at their disposal, and with a rookie quarterback at the helm, Tampa Bay will be hard pressed to walk away victorious in tonight’s ESPN Thursday Night Football game.
That fact isn’t aided by momentum, which seems to be clearly on the Panthers side. Carolina have won two straight games and three of their last four, and tonight is an opportunity to go above .500 for the first time since 2008. What’s more, quarterback Cam Newton has been playing recently at a level higher than at any time since he left Auburn, positioning him to eat alive a Buccaneers defense that’s giving up 252 yards per game in the air and nearly 341 yards per game total.
Since tonight’s game is televised live on ESPN, you can catch it via the ESPN2 website or the ESPN app on Xbox 360, or you can watch Thursday Night Football free live online on DirecTV’s website if you have the NFL Sunday Ticket Package. That package requires a subscription, but anyone can watch that live streaming version free if they have it. This could very well be the game Cam Newton looks like an All-Pro. It certainly shouldn’t be the game when Tampa Bay finally walks away with a victory.