Bucs prepare for potential sweep of rival Panthers

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LONDON, England (WFLA) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will try to pull off a rare two-game sweep of the NFC South rival Carolina Panthers this morning at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. The game kicks off just after 9:30 am eastern time. 

This is the second time the Bucs will take on the Panthers in less than a month. In week two, Tampa Bay defeated Carolina 20-17. The win was preserved by Vernon Hargeaves’ fourth down tackle of running back Christian McCaffrey at the Bucs’ one yard line.

Since that game, the Panthers have rolled to three consecutive wins utilizing the efficient play of backup quarterback Kyle Allen. The Bucs have two losses in their last three games and have yet to string together  back to back wins.

Here are three keys to watch today:

Put Allen in the London fog.

A lingering foot injury has sidelined Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and the result is three straight wins. Quarterback Kyle Allen has not had too much responsibility in the offense as running back Christian McCaffrey has carried the load, averaging more than 200 total yards per game. 

The Bucs completely shut down McCaffrey in week two and have limited opponents’ rushing attack in each game after that win. The pass defense, however, has taken a hit and quarterbacks Daniel Jones (Giants) and Teddy Bridgewater (Saints) enjoyed big games in wins over Tampa Bay. Entering the game, the Bucs are last in the NFL in passing defense, allowing more than 323 yards per game.

Will the line hold up?

Last Sunday against the Saints, Bucs guard Alex Cappa played nearly the entire game with pain in his arm. It turns out, the arm was broken. 

The Bucs offensive line enters today’s game with question marks. Tackle Demar Dotson injured his hamstring in the Saints game. Backup Zack Bailey got hurt. Before the trip to London, the Bucs promoted lineman Nate Trewyn to the active roster for depth purposes. 

The Bucs will have to protect quarterback Jameis Winston who was sacked five times against the Saints, three times in one series. The Bucs running game will be an important factor, limiting the much improved Panthers pass rush.

Dealing with the elements.

Both teams traveled overseas. Both teams will play in a chilly rain today. Which team will respond the best?

The NFL London games have long been a mystery as teams try to tackle the challenge of travel and time change. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians brought his Arizona Cardinals here two seasons ago and was beaten soundly, after spending the entire week in London. This time, Arians chose to get most of the practice week in, in Tampa. The team flew overnight Thursday, arrived on Friday morning and practiced right away.  

Will “sports science” play a role in the Bucs success or failure today? Like any Americans traveling to London, it’s probably more a matter of battling through the initial jet lag, then focusing on the task.

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