The NFL is returning to London this week with an NFC South rivalry game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers. Kickoff is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. EST on Sunday, October 13 at the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London. The game will be available on the NFL Network.
Current betting odds list the Panthers as 2.5-point favorites with an over/under of 47 points. Click here to check out all of this week’s NFL games and betting odds.
The Panthers are going across the pond with a three-game winning streak that has included wins over the Cardinals, Texans, and Jaguars. Of course, the most amazing part of the winning streak is that they’ve done it without Cam Newton. With Newton still recovering from a foot injury, Kyle Allen has stepped in and led the team. The Panthers have turned the tide after their 0-2 start and are just a game behind New Orleans in the NFC South. Carolina will want to keep up the momentum they’ve built and head into next week’s bye week on a four-game winning streak.
As for the Bucs, they’re coming off a loss against the aforementioned Saints last week. Tampa has struggled to maintain any kind of consistency this season. They let a game against the Giants slip away in thanks to a missed field goal, only to score a convincing 55-40 road win over the Rams the following week. Alas, they took a road loss against the Saints last week to drop to 2-3 on the season. After next week’s bye, the Bucs hit the road again in back-to-back weeks against the Titans and Seahawks. That puts a fair amount of pressure on Tampa to win this week; otherwise, their season could start to spiral out of control.
This is already the second game between the Bucs and Panthers this season. The Buccaneers won in Carolina 20-14 to open up Week 2 on a Thursday night, holding the Panthers to four field goals and a safety despite getting out-gained in total yards. It was by far the best performance by the Tampa defense all season. Of course, it came against the Panthers with Newton starting at quarterback when he clearly wasn’t playing at 100%. Facing the Panthers with Allen at quarterback figures to be a different challenge for the Bucs.
The Panthers have turned the tide in their season after losing to the Bucs in Week 2, and they’re about to do the same to the Bucs in London. The Carolina team that lost at home in Week 2 is different from the one Tampa will see on Sunday. The Panthers are as hot as any NFL team right now while the Buccaneers are as unreliable as any NFL team. I have no problem eating the points and leaning toward Carolina to win by at least a field goal.
The one concern I have with the Panthers this week is the status of Christian McCaffrey, who sat out the end last week’s game with a cramp and is on the injury report this week because of a back injury. However, all signs point to him being able to play on Sunday. The caveat is that the Tampa defense is one of the best in the league against the rush and actually held McCaffrey to just 37 rushing yards in Week 2.
However, with Allen at quarterback, the Panthers are more adept at throwing the ball downfield than they were with Newton the first two weeks of the season. DJ Moore has looked more dangerous and explosive down the field than he did early in the year while Newton was playing quarterback. Oddly enough, the Bucs are one of the worst teams in the league at defending the pass. They’ll either leave openings in the secondary for Moore and others to make plays down the field or back off the line of scrimmage and create more space for McCaffrey to run the ball.
On the other side of the ball, there are multiple concerns with the Tampa offense. For starters, Mike Evans was a complete non-factor last week, catching zero passes. Even with Chris Godwin emerging as a bonafide downfield threat, the Bucs aren’t going to survive if they can’t get Evans the ball. We also can’t forget that Jameis Winston can be turnover-prone. Just because he didn’t throw a pick last week doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods.
On a similar note, Winston can expect to be under a lot of pressure this week. The Buccaneers are missing the entire right side of their offensive line due to injury, which doesn’t bode well for a team that’s allowed 18 sacks in five games, including six last week. Meanwhile, the Panthers have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL, already amassing 20 sacks in five games. I’d be shocked if the Carolina defense didn’t exploit Tampa’s banged-up offensive line and put Winston under consistent pressure, leading the quarterback to make mistakes.
Even with some questions about McCaffrey that could force the Panthers to put more on Allen’s shoulders, I’m confident that Carolina will win this game. The Bucs are inconsistent in the first place, and their vulnerability on the offensive line creates concern over their offense being able to do much against the Carolina defense. I’ll put my faith in the Panthers to cover.