Brady, Bucs can clinch NFC South with win over Panthers

December 29, 2022 GMT
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) watches from the sideline against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) watches from the sideline against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

CAROLINA (6-9) vs TAMPA BAY (7-8)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EST, FOX


AGAINST THE SPREAD: Panthers 8-7, Buccaneers 3-11-1.

SERIES RECORD: Panthers lead 25-19.

LAST MEETING: Panthers beat Buccaneers 21-3, Oct. 23, 2022, at Charlotte.

LAST WEEK: Panthers beat Lions 37-23; Buccaneers beat Cardinals 19-16, OT.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Panthers minus-1; Buccaneers minus-4

PANTHERS PLAYER TO WATCH: RBs D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard vs. Bucs defense. Foreman ran for 165 yards and Hubbard added 125 yards rushing — career highs for both players — last week as the Panthers racked up a franchise-record 320 yards on the ground against the Detroit Lions. Carolina averaged 7.4 yards per carry and ran for three TDs. The Panthers had 27 carries for 173 yards in a 21-3 win over the Bucs in Week 7.


BUCCANEERS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Leonard Fournette, whose role in the offense has been impacted by increased playing time for rookie Rachaad White, is coming off one of his strongest performances of the season. He accounted for 162 yards from scrimmage in last week’s 19-16 overtime win over Arizona, rushing for 62 yards and leading the team with nine receptions for 90 yards.

KEY MATCHUP: Bucs QB Tom Brady against a Panthers defense that held Tampa Bay to three points in the Oct. 23 meeting between the teams at Carolina. Brady has thrown for 4,178 yards, 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions, however the Bucs are only averaging 17.7 points per game. That’s 28th in the league.

KEY INJURIES: Panthers CB Jaycee Horn broke his wrist during last week’s win over the Lions and has been ruled out for Sunday. With Horn sidelined, C.J. Henderson and Keith Taylor will start at cornerback while veteran Josh Norman, signed last Monday, will come off the bench. Taylor struggled mightily two weeks ago against the Pittsburgh Steelers when pressed into duty. ... The Bucs designated C Ryan Jensen to return from injured reserve, however coach Todd Bowles said he will not play against the Panthers. Jensen (knee) has been sidelined since the second day of training camp in July. Decisions on the status of RT Tristan Wirfs (ankle), LT Donovan Smith (foot), S Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle), CB Jamel Dean (toe), DT Vita Vea (calf), WR Julio Jones (knee) and LB Carl Nassib (toe) may not be finalized until the weekend.


SERIES NOTES: The Bucs have won four of the past five meetings between the division rivals.

STATS AND STUFF: The Panthers can win the NFC South if they beat Tampa Bay and New Orleans to close the season. ... Interim coach Steve Wilks is 5-5 since taking over for Matt Rhule, who was fired after Week 5. ... Carolina is 1-5 on the road this season. ... QB Sam Darnold threw for a season-high 250 yards and had two TDs (1 pass, 1 rush) last week vs. the Lions. Darnold is 3-1 as the team’s starter and has thrown four touchdown passes with no interceptions since replacing Baker Mayfield. ... DE Brian Burns has 12 1/2 sacks and needs three more to break the team’s single-season record of 15 shared by Kevin Greene and Greg Hardy. ... The Bucs can clinch their second straight NFC South title with a victory Sunday. ... Brady is on pace to break the NFL’s single-season record for pass attempts. He’s thrown 671 passes through 15 games, 56 shy of the 727 Matthew Stafford attempted in 2012. The seven-time Super Bowl champion has 443 completions. He needs 43 more to break his own league single-season mark of 485 set last year. ... WR Chris Godwin has five or more receptions in 12 straight games, the longest active streak in the league. He has 42 catches and two TDs in eight games vs. Carolina. ... WR Mike Evans is 83 receiving yards short of becoming the first player in league history to begin a career with nine consecutive seasons with 1,000 yards receiving. ... The Bucs are trying to win consecutive division titles for the first time.


FANTASY TIP: Panthers WR D.J. Moore looks for his third straight game with at least 100 yards from scrimmage against the Bucs. He led the team with five receptions for 83 yards with a touchdown last week against the Lions. Moore has scored in three of his past four games. Evans, meanwhile, has 37 receptions, averaged 94.2 yards per game and caught four TD passes over his past five outings against the Panthers.


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