Bucs vs. Panthers
By: Alyssa Britton-Harr
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play against the Carolina Panthers on New Year’s Day. This matchup is significant because both teams have a chance to reign as NFC South Champions, making this essentially a playoff game. If the Bucs win Sunday’s game against the Panthers, they will be the NFC South Champions and clinch the number four seed in the NFC Playoffs. If the Panthers win, they will hold the tiebreaker however, they would still need to beat the Saints on January 8th to clinch if the Bucs beat the Falcons.
This game is significant for the struggling Bucs because they can clinch a playoff spot and make a comeback from their 21-3 loss against the Panthers in Week Seven. Look for wide receiver Mike Evans to show out as he closes in on his ninth consecutive 1,000-yard season. Especially with the Panther’s secondary hurting so much, they brought cornerback Josh Norman out of retirement to hopefully contain Mike Evans.
The Buccaneers have struggled tremendously because of the injuries to the offensive line, defensive line, and secondary. However, with recent injury updates, many of those injured players, such as Ryan Jensen, Tristan Wirfs, and Vita Vea are looking to be active. Right tackle Tristan Wirfs returned in Week 16 to play Christmas Day against the Arizona Cardinals and re injured his ankle, but he looks to play. Head Coach Todd Bowles had stated earlier in the week that Jensen is ready to play, but he will not be playing against the Panthers this Sunday. It was announced yesterday that the status of Vita Vea is still uncertain, and it will be a game-time decision; however, the Bucs desperately need him to contain the red-hot Carolina run game.
The Carolina Panthers have had a tremendous change from their 2-7 record at the beginning of the season, with Sam Darnold coming back as QB1 and Steve Wilks taking the helm as the interim coach. Winning the NFC South would certainly make an argument for him to become the permanent head coach.
This game has all the excitement of a playoff game and not to mention the Goat Tom Brady has never had a losing season. The playoff spot, Steve Wilks audition for head coach, and Tom Brady’s retirement decision make this a must-see game!