Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers seek first wins in crucial NFC South clash
Watch live on Sky Sports Action and Main Event from 12.30am on Friday morning; kick-off is at 1.20am
By James Simpson - @JS_Football
Last Updated: 13/09/19 6:05am
Week Two begins with the Carolina Panthers hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, exclusively live on Sky Sports Action and Main Event. Here is what to expect...
Seasons so far
Tampa Bay Buccaneers' (0-1) new head coach Bruce Arians wasn't able to immediately remedy the team's turnover problem as Jameis Winston threw three picks in Week One, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
Although the Bucs pipped the 49ers in yards and first downs, they lost the turnover battle 4-2 in a 31-17 home loss. Arians has a lot of work to do as his team will face the Rams, Saints, and Titans at some point in the next six weeks.
Carolina (0-1) also suffered a home defeat in opening week, but a narrow one (27-30) to defending NFC champs, the Los Angeles Rams.
Although the Panthers rallied from 16-3 down to draw within three at the start of the fourth quarter, the defense couldn't contain Todd Gurley - who ran for 64 fourth-quarter yards - and Cam Newton threw a crucial pick with five minutes left.
Ones to watch
Although Winston had a disastrous day passing, second-year running back Ronald Jones looked a changed man after a poor rookie season and led a strong Tampa Bay ground game. In Week One, he averaged 5.8 yards per carry and managed more yards (75) than he had in his entire first year (44).
The Panthers surrendered 166 yards to Gurley, Malcolm Brown, and company - will Arians ride Jones on Thursday?
In Carolina's backfield, Christian McCaffrey last week (19-128-2 and 10-81) became the first player in the Super Bowl era to record at least 120 rushing yards and 10 catches in multiple games (Week 12, 2018).
He is one of the most versatile attacking weapons in the league and last season, he was just 35 yards shy of 2,000 scrimmage yards with 1,098 rushing and 867 receiving. He is always worth tuning in for.
Also, watch out for Panthers DT Gerald McCoy. He was released in May after nine seasons with the Buccaneers and totalling the third-most sacks (54.5) in their history, and will want to show them what they are missing.
Where will the game be won and lost?
It is all about the turnover battle and more specifically, about how Winston can take care of the ball.
In 55 career starts, Winston has thrown 61 interceptions. He has fumbled the ball 40 times, and lost it on 17 occasions - leading the league in giveaways since he was drafted in 2015. It's simply not good enough when victories are so hard to come by.
As a team, the Bucs gave the ball away a league-leading 35 times last season - Arians will not stand for it for much longer.
- Winston and Newton each have seven games with three-plus interceptions since 2015 (tied most in the NFL)
- Newton has lost in each of his last seven starts
- Winston has lost 12 straight road games, the longest streak in the league
- McCaffrey has the most scrimmage yards in the league since the start of last season
- The Buccaneers allowed a 110.9 passer rating to opposing QBs in 2018, the second-highest passer rating allowed over a single-season since 1940 (2015 NO)
- Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly is only linebacker to be named to last six Pro Bowls, has most All-Pro selections (5) since 2013, and leads NFL in tackles (956) since 2012
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