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Can the Panthers Win the NFC South Championship?

The Carolina Panthers will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the second time this season. The last time these two teams met was back in Week 7, 2022 with Carolina winning, 21-3. Can the Panthers win the NFC South Championship?

Some news broke leading up to this game. It was announced that Carolina was bringing back Veteran cornerback Josh Norman. Wilks said, “would not expect Norman to start right away” (according to ESPN). If Horn can’t go because of his wrist injury, Wilks will look at C.J. Henderson and Keith Taylor to get the first reps versus the Buccaneers.

Game Information

Date: January 1st, 2023

Time: 1:00 pm

Location: Tampa Bay, Florida

Stadium: Raymond James Stadium

Broadcast Info: Fox Sports (Kevin Burkhart and Greg Olsen will be calling the game)

Can the Panthers win the NFC South Championship?

For the Panthers to win, they need to do three things. One is to establish the running game early, Two establish the passing game, and three pressure Tom Brady. If the Panthers do these things they should be able to beat Tampa Bay.

#1 Establish the One-Two-Punch Running Game Early

Ever since Steve Wilks became the interim head coach, Carolina’s running game has turned into a one-two-punch style of running with Chuba Hubbard and D’Onta Foreman. This is similar to how Green Bay used their runningbacks last year with Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. Against the Detroit Lions was a great example of this style of running working in the NFL.

Foreman had 21 rushes for 165 yards and one touchdown. Hubbard in the same game had 12 rushes for 125 yards. The Panthers also have been working in Raheem Blackshear into that scheme who had 3 runs for 3 yards and a touchdown. As long as Carolina keeps using their running backs like this they should be able to get the W barring any setbacks.

#2 Establish the Passing Game

The Panthers need to establish the passing game. Carolina can take advantage of Sam Darnold’s arm strength and use their weapons, Terrance Marshall Jr and Laviska Shenault, and D.J Moore. Last week, Marshall had two catches for 55 yards and Shenault had three receptions for 53 yards. Although with Terrance and Laviska, Carolina needs to get D.J. Moore involved in the passing game. Moore had five receptions for 83 yards and one touchdown versus the Lions.

#3 Pressuring Tom Brady

The Panthers' defensive-line needs to take advantage of a banged-up Bucs O-line. The Buccaneer's offensive line has two rookies Luke Goedeke a second-round pick and Robert Hainsey a third-round pick. The most pressurized quarterback is Tom Brady (according to The Bucs O-line is also likely to double-team pro-bowler Brian Burns which would leave holes in the O-line for guys like Matt Idonidis, Derrick Brown, Shaq Thompson, and Frankie Luvu.

Can the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the NFC South Championship?

This will be a closer match-up than some may think. For the Bucs to win they need to do three things Stop the Panthers running game, and take a lot of shots downfield.

#1 Stop the Panthers running game

As seen in Carolina’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers if you stop the Panthers running game, specifically D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard you will have stopped Carolina entirely. In that game versus Pittsburgh Foreman and Hubbard combined for 19 yards on the ground.

#2 Take a lot of Shots downfield

The Panthers’ secondary is heavily injured. They’re starting corner Jaycee horn is out for this match-up with a wrist injury. Carolina’s secondary is now in the hands of Keith Taylor who is not a good corner. Taylor got burnt by Diontae Johnson and C.J. Henderson. The Panthers are likely to stack the box and take advantage of the Bucs' O-line.

#3 Force Turnovers

If Tampa Bay’s defense can force turnovers then they have a good chance of winning. This starts with the d-line getting pressure on Sam Darnold and forcing him to make bad throws, leading to interceptions. Those interceptions lead to more offensive opportunities for Tampa.

Predictions for this Game

The predictions for this game are 50/50. This match-up does feel like it’s for the NFC South Championship. It’s extra hard to predict a score because there are several factors. First, how will Darnold play? second, how will the Bucs' defense hold up against the Panthers' running game? I predict a low-scoring, defensive battle a 16-19 type of game.

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