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  • Will Winston keep his decision-making and his problematic late inside throws under control against the Panthers? Three things to watch on Thursday Night Football.
By Andy Benoit
September 12, 2019

The second week of the 2019 NFL season kicks off with the Buccaneers visiting the Panthers on Thursday Night Football. We have three things to watch in the NFC South showdown.

1. Week 1 verified what we already knew about these quarterbacks: Cam Newton is going to make four or five errant throws a game (usually high and wide), and Jameis Winston will make four or five errant decisions. Newton’s mistakes are much more survivable, but it’s nearly impossible to have a consistent passing game with them. Winston’s mistakes can be deadly. True, last week against San Francisco, two of his three interceptions may not have been entirely on him—tight end O.J. Howard tipped a ball that was hot and high but catchable, while tailback Peyton Barber, split out wide, may have failed to run the proper hot route on Richard Sherman’s interception (though we can’t be sure without knowing the play call). But Winston also got away with a few balls that could have been picked but were dropped. His main problem continues to be late throws inside. Some of it’s mental, a lot of it’s discipline and a bit of it is physical, as an elongated throwing motion can make him late on passes, especially in the quick game.

But for all their faults, let’s remember: there’s a lot to like about the quarterbacks. When they’re on, they can look as scintillating as any passers in football, and both have the playmaking gene.

2. Tampa Bay has gone from being a longtime straight four-man pass rushing defense to a highly schemed, complex designer pressure D under new coordinator Todd Bowles. That’s Bowles’s M.O., and such an approach is mandatory here, as the closest thing the Bucs have to a bona fide pass rusher is Ndamukong Suh, who flashes only once in a while these days. Carolina’s offensive line and backs were solid picking up the Rams’ drastically updated and expanded designer pass rushes last Sunday. Now they must prepare for more, and on a short week.

3. You don’t think of the ground game when you hear “Bruce Arians offense,” but the Bucs have a chance to be better here than in recent years. Their O-line has the size and grit to execute this scheme’s road-grading double-team designs inside. But for those to work, tight ends must block on the edges and the receivers—at least the “Z”, which is often Chris Godwin—must have the grit to motion down inside and throw hands. Carolina’s stingy front seven will be a good litmus test for these men.

Bold Prediction: Christian McCaffrey is contained for much of the night but produces a few critical gash plays, as Tampa Bay’s revamped linebacking and safety units are a work in progress.

Score Prediction: Panthers 20, Buccaneers 16

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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