Players to Watch: Panthers @ Bucs
Tampa Bay Offense:
TE: O.J. Howard - Tampa has three tight ends that they will use and use often. Defensive coordinator Phil Snow said that he expects them to use all three at the same time a good bit, but O.J. Howard is going to be the guy to key in on. Rob Gronkowski isn't the player he was years ago and remember, he sat out all of last season so he is still trying to get reacclimated.
WR Scotty Miller - With the Bucs dealing with some injuries at receiver to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Miller has emerged as Brady's go-to target. Whether or not he will continue to be that guy remains to be seen, but with Godwin doubtful for Sunday's game vs Carolina, he will certainly play a huge role this week.
DT Derrick Brown - Panthers veteran defensive tackle Kawann Short is ruled OUT for this week's game, so a lot of pressure will fall squarely on the shoulders of Derrick Brown. Carolina struggled to get any pressure or push up front last week and with Short out, Brown has to play at a high level for the Panthers to have a chance.
CB Rasul Douglas - When Donte Jackson went down, Douglas played a big role and came up with a couple of good plays on the ball in the second half. Jackson is back this week, but Douglas will have to step up once again to help slow down the Buccaneers' aerial attack.
RB Christian McCaffrey - Tampa absolutely shut down McCaffrey in 2019, holding him to just 68 yards in two games. They have an extremely talented front seven and will be expecting the run, so McCaffrey will also need to be a factor in the passing game this week. If he is shut down in the run game again, it could be a long day for offensive coordinator Joe Brady.
C Matt Paradis - As previously mentioned, the Bucs have a strong defensive front and one that will give the interior of the Panthers' offensive line some trouble. Paradis struggled all year in 2019 and this will be his first big test of the 2020 season.
Tampa Bay Defense:
LB Shaquil Barrett - Until last year, Shaq Barrett wasn't thought of as an elite pass rusher, but that all changed when he recorded 19.5 sacks in 2019. He constantly finds ways to get in the backfield and can line up all over the defense. Carolina's offensive line will have to account for him on every single play and know where he is.
DT Vita Vea - Talk about a disrupter up front in the middle...Vita Vea is that guy. He's been a big part of the Bucs success defensively over the last two years and is going to give Matt Paradis a lot of challenges.