The second year for Cam Newton and the Ron Rivera era kicks off Sunday as the Panthers head to Tampa to take on the Bucs in a week one NFC South showdown.
New Bucs coach Greg Schiano has his hands full, as he looks to erase what was an awful end to the Buccaneers 2011 season which ended on a 10-game losing streak.
It won’t be easy, as the Panthers were competitive in a lot of games last season, and they hope to be able to turn the corner and finish a lot of those close games this year.
The Panthers D will look to pressure Bucs QB Josh Freeman, who looks to rebound after a rough 2011 when he finished second in the NFL with 22 interceptions in 2011.
Freeman posted 25 touchdowns and six interceptions during the 10-win campaign the year before.
“I have an awful taste in my mouth from last season,” Freeman said. “It’s something I don’t ever want to ever have happen again.”
Freeman wants to make a statement in this game, and will look for new franchise WR Vincent Jackson, who the Bucs inked to help the passing game in 2012.
On D, the Bucs will have to keep a spy on Newton, last seasons offensive rookie of the year. Newton threw for 21 touchdowns and rushedfor 14 more – an NFL record for a quarterback.
“I think the whole vibe around this team is different this year,” Newton said. “There’s a sense in the air that everybody is anticipating something great is going to happen and that’s exciting.”
Newton is dangerous, and for a Bucs team that is young and needs a lot of growing up to do, it’s going to be tough for them to shut down the Panthers passing and run game with DeAngelo Williams.
Look for Tampa to hang around for about a half, but in the second half it will be too much Newton, and the Panthers will walk out of Tampa 1-0 after a week one win.
Carolina 27 Tampa Bay 17