NFL Football

19
Final 1 2 3 4 Tot
Tampa Bay 3 6 7 3 19
Carolina 3 9 3 7 22
22
10:00 AM PT11:00 AM MT12:00 PM CT1:00 PM ET18:00 GMT2:00 11:00 AM MST1:00 PM EST12:00 PM CT22:00 UAE13:00 ETNaN:� , December 24, 2017
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina  Weather: 55°, Cloudy  Attendance: 71,463

Panthers looking to clinch playoff spot vs. Bucs

According to STATS
According to STATS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers

  1. The Buccaneers are coming off a 24-21 home loss to Atlanta on Monday night that was Tampa Bay's fourth straight defeat. The setback dropped the Buccaneers to 4-10, as they've now lost at least 10 games for the 25th time since debuting in 1976. That matches the Cardinals for the most seasons with double-digit losses by any franchise in NFL history.
  2. The Panthers defeated Green Bay at home last week, 31-24, producing their second consecutive victory by that precise score. At 10-4, Carolina can clinch a playoff berth with a win or a tie this Sunday. The Panthers are averaging 32.6 points per game since Week 10, the highest rate in football.
  3. The Panthers defeated the Buccaneers at Tampa in Week 8, 17-3, to improve to 21-13 in the all-time series. Carolina enters this game with a 9-1 record when facing the Buccaneers in December, matching the best mark any team has ever posted against a single opponent (minimum 8 games) in the month of December (Oilers/Titans also 9-1 versus the Bills).
  4. Since returning from his right shoulder injury in Week 13, Jameis Winston has posted a passer rating of 109.0 in December, second only to Blake Bortles (128.6) among quarterbacks with at least 40 attempts this month. Winston completed 77.1 percent of his passes last week, the highest mark of his career.
  5. With 2962 passing yards in 2017, Cam Newton needs 38 more to combine at least 3000 yards through the air with 500 or more rushing yards for the sixth time in his career. No other player has totaled more than four such seasons (Russell Wilson). Newton (4209) also needs 31 yards on the ground to overtake Steve Young (4239) for the third-most career rushing yards ever by a QB.
  6. Christian McCaffrey set a personal high with 136 yards from scrimmage last week. In the process he caught six passes, raising his season total to 73 and matching the most ever by a Panthers rookie (Kelvin Benjamin in 2014). McCaffrey also is the only rookie running back in NFL history to ever combine at least 70 catches with five or more receiving touchdowns.
Team Comparison

Tampa Bay
 
Carolina
20.4 Points 23.6
276.9 Pass Yds 212.8
91.0 Rush Yds 135.7
24 Takeaways 18

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Potential distractions keep piling up for the Carolina Panthers, but they also can focus on reaching the playoffs.

A victory Sunday afternoon in the home finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would clinch a playoff spot and keep the Panthers in contention for the NFC South title.

"We still need some things to work out in our favor, but if those things happen we are still going to take care of business," Carolina quarterback Cam Newton said.

The Panthers (10-4) won six of their last seven games and remain tied for the divisional lead with the New Orleans Saints.

The Buccaneers (4-10) are out of playoff contention and are beat up after losing several players during a loss to Atlanta on Monday.

The Carolina franchise has been embroiled in off-field news, with owner Jerry Richardson the focus of an NFL investigation amid allegations of workplace misconduct. And since the last game, Richardson announced he plans to sell the team at season's end.

Then came word from the NFL that veteran linebacker Thomas Davis has been handed a two-game suspension for a hit in last week against the Green Bay Packers.

But on the field, the Panthers have been mostly strong for two months. That adds to the pressure as well.

"I think there's going to be some pressure to get another (victory)," Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly said. "Any time you get to 10 (victories), that's a good mark for a team but we've got a few more games and hopefully we can keep moving forward."

It's not so encouraging for the Buccaneers, who are coming off Monday night's 24-21 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

"So many unfortunate things have been happening," Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston said. "We've got to keep digging and keep working. ... It has been an unfortunate year, but all we can do is grab our lunch pail and keep working. We have got to find a way. It's how you bounce back. It's how you persevere."

The Panthers defeated the Buccaneers 17-3 on Oct. 29 in Tampa. Winston was intercepted twice and sacked three times in that game.

The Buccaneers won't be at full strength after a slew of injuries Monday night. Linebacker Adarius Glanton and right guard J.R. Sweezy have been lost for the season with leg injuries while tight end O.J. Howard (ankle) and safety Justin Evans (ankle) joined them on injured reserve.

Tampa Bay suffered a total of 10 injuries on Monday, and is so beat up that a short week prior to the trip to Carolina it could be especially detrimental.

"There will be a price to pay for that here this week," Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said.

The Panthers are thin at linebacker with Davis unavailable and Shaq Thompson missing the past two games with a foot injury. Thompson could be back this week. David Mayo filled in during his absence and now might be called on to shift into Davis' spot.

On offense, Newton produced his second game of the season with four touchdown throws against Green Bay.

"He has done the things we asked and he has been solid," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. "As we continue to go forward, this is the type of energy we need from our quarterback and from our key players."

For Tampa Bay, Winston has made some recent strides that have the Buccaneers encouraged.

"He's always working on his body and his film study," Koetter said. "The way he threw the ball (Monday night), he threw effortlessly and with touch."

Tampa Bay's schedule calls for the final three games (beginning with that loss to Atlanta) against the other three NFC South teams, so the Buccaneers can influence the pecking order at the top.

Koetter said it's important to maintain a serious approach.

"These aren't practice games," he said. "These are real games and we're trying to win."

The Buccaneers are stuck in a four-game losing streak and are 2-6 in games decided by six points or less.

"You've got to win those one-score games," Koetter said. "We've just got to come out on the other end of that. ... Frustrated that they're not close wins. You play to win."

Winston said the grind of the season is tougher when the results aren't what the Buccaneers were aiming for. Now, there's a chance for a bit of an uplifting finish.

"I just want to win," Winston said. "I can't let those guys down. I've got to compete. ... Every opportunity we have to build this team matters."

The best scenario for the Panthers would be to defeat the Buccaneers on Sunday, but hope Tampa Bay leaves in a determined mindset to upset New Orleans the following week.

Both teams are coming off back-to-back games with the same scores. Carolina defeated Minnesota and Green Bay by 31-24 counts, while Tampa Bay lost to Detroit and Atlanta by 24-21 scores.

Updated December 20, 2017

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