Week 1: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Vs. Carolina Panthers
- QuarterbackThe Bucs are going to retool this year as Greg Schiano tries to re-energize the franchise. He’s going with talented Josh Freeman at quarterback and is hoping that mistakes will not be as plentiful as they were a year ago.Cam Newton had a record-setting rookie season and his experience should make him better. Newton needs to cut down on mistakes but he is a brilliant athlete with a strong arm.
- OffenseThe Bucs may not have a prolific offense this year, but they will be tough and physical with Doug Martin and LaGarrette Blount at running back. Vincent Jackson is a big-play diva receiver who will soon learn that Freeman lacks accuracy.The Panthers should have one of the more balanced offenses as DeAngelo Williams gives them a credible ground attack to support Newton. Steve Smith should be fine for this game and Brandon LeFell can make the tough catch on third down.
- DefenseThe Bucs are no longer known for the defense they played when they had Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, but Schiano made his bones as a defensive coach. Gerald McCoy is probably the best lineman, but he has struggled to stay healthy.There’s only one way to go for the Panthers since they were miserable last season on defense, setting franchise-worst records for points allowed and passing yards allowed. Rivera is depending on Luke Kuechly to improve tackling.
- Special TeamsThe Bucs were not thrilled with special teams last year but they will give placekicker Connor Barth and punter Michael Koenen another chance this season. Koenen is a decent kickoff man as well as a decent punter.The Panthers were a disaster on special teams last year and Rivera has made changes on the coverage teams that should make them more competitive. Rookie Brad Nortman will handle the punting duties and he needs to speed up his delivery.
The Panthers have a chance to be one of the surprise teams in the league this year. The offense looks balanced and somewhat dangerous with Newton at the helm and Kuechly should be a tackling machine. The Bucs will play hard for Schiano but they won’t play well.