Only 3-off teams have ever made the play-offs after losing their first two games in the NFC South. The 2002 Atlanta Falcons, the 2013 Carolina Panthers and the 2017 New Orleans Saints are the only teams to salvage their season after being handed two losses straight out of the gate.
Why is this fact relevant? Well after opening day defeats for both the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the pressure is already on both these teams as they meet in Charlotte on Thursday Night Football. A second consecutive loss for either side would make reaching the play-offs highly unlikely.
In week one, the Panthers made a valiant attempt at a comeback at home against the Rams. The Bucs meanwhile seemed intent on beating themselves in a disappointing home loss to the Niners.
So with the game being screened nationally on Thursday Night, the following Offensive players (and one Defensive player with a grudge) worth watching:-
Love him or loathe him, Cam Newton is box office material. Worth watching off the field for his press conference attire alone. If the former Auburn man is on form then he is a joy to behold on the field of play. Sadly for SuperCam, injuries have plagued his last couple of seasons in the NFL. Time will tell if the dual threat signal caller can get back to his 2015 MVP form.
Jameis Winston’s time in Tampa has been inconsistent. All eyes will be on the former Heisman winner as Winston simply has to perform on Thursday Night. Not only is Tampa’s season on the line but so is Winston’s future. Fortunately for Jameis, he has never been the type to let a poor performance affect his next game.
Christian McCaffrey has put up over 150 yards in both his previous two games against the Bucs in 2018. With Vitae Vea and Ndamukong Suh blocking up the middle of the trenches, the onus will be on Linebackers Davonte David and Devon White to try and keep Run CMC in check. Catching McCaffrey is one thing, being able to stop him is another. A combination of strength and balance makes him an incredibly difficult opponent to stop.
Ronald Jones finally got the opportunity to showcase some of his talent against San Fransisco on Sunday. After enduring a disastrous Rookie season after the Bucs used a second round draft pick in 2018, Jones got his chance during the season opener. Pre-season performances looked promising and Jones has carried that form into the regular season. The Panthers front seven is a tougher unit that the 49ers. However, the former USC man will hope to put on a show for the prime time audience.
Mike Evans is the best wide receiver in the NFC South not named Julio Jones. Evans was side-lined with an illness for most of the season opener. In his five years in the league, Evans has completed five straight 1000 plus yardsd receiving. The Bucs need the former Texas A&M standout at his very best.
Greg Olsen is Cam Newton’s favourite target. The former Chicago Bear has had injuries problems over the past two seasons. It is only a few years ago where he became the first ever Tight End to record three successive 1000 plus receiving yards seasons in history. Olsen may be in the twilight of his career but expect him to have a major say in the outcome of a contest which he has always showed up in.
OJ Howard had a game to forget on Sunday. Responsible for two turnovers and missed blocking assignments, Bucs fans are hoping that he rediscovers his form. Despite injuries in both of his two seasons in the NFL, Tampa’s former first rounder has been outstanding when he has been on the field. Tampa will be hoping for a big performance from the ex-Crimson Tide man.
Gerald McCoy The off-season in Tampa was dominated by Gerald McCoy. Cut by the Bucs after nine seasons and six straight Pro-Bowl appearances, the former 2010 first round selection should have no motivational issues for this game. Throw in the public spat with the Bucs after Tampa handed over the number 93 jersey to Ndomukun Suh within days of McCoy being released then the Defensive Tackle’s performance is worth watching.
So a win for either team will kick start their season. A second loss on the trot could well be the beginning of the end for their 2019 dreams.
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