The Carolina Panthers are heading into their Week 2 matchup on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with an 0-1 record after falling to the Los Angeles Rams 30-27 in Week 1. It was a tough loss, but the Panthers are still widely expected to compete for a playoff spot this season.
In order for the Panthers to get back on the right track, they must take care of business this week. Carolina will be heading into a rivalry matchup with an NFC North opponent, but will have the advantage of playing at home. Tampa Bay may not be viewed as a playoff contender, but they are no pushover either.
Jameis Winston and company suffered a rough Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Their offense did not look great, but Bruce Arians will get things turned around. Carolina’s defense will have to come prepared, as the Buccaneers are going to be looking to make a statement after a disappointing loss.
Cam Newton and the Carolina offense has quite a few question marks surrounding them. After recovering from a serious shoulder injury this offseason, the Panthers did not see a great game from him against the Rams. They need him to bounce back strong and show that he is still capable of leading this team.
All of that being said, let’s dive in and take a look at four key Panthers players to watch in Week 2 against Tampa Bay.
4. Brian Burns, Edge Rusher
One of the biggest keys for the Panthers will be rookie pass rusher Brian Burns. He was brought in to help put pressure on the quarterback and he ended his first game with two total tackles, one tackle for a loss, and two quarterback hits.
Carolina has to find a way to put pressure on Winston. If they can get to him and force him to make quick decisions, their secondary should be able to make some plays. Burns has to figure out how to make a major impact for the team in his second NFL game.
3. Gerald McCoy, Defensive Tackle
Speaking of getting pressure on the quarterback, Carolina made another big offseason move with the signing of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. This will be the first time that McCoy faces his former team. He was released by the Buccaneers and replaced by Ndamukong Suh this offseason.
McCoy will be looking to get revenge on his former team this week. McCoy has been one of the league’s top defensive linemen for years and he will have extra motivation this week.
2. Cam Newton, Quarterback
Next up, the Panthers are going to need a major performance from Cam Newton this week. He completed 25 of his 38 pass attempts for 239 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception last week. Those numbers are not going to cut it for him moving forward.
Newton needs to show the Panthers something this week. If they are going to make a run at the playoffs, they need him to play quality football. This week against the Buccaneers offers him an opportunity to play against a defense with plenty of holes and Newton must take advantage of it.
1. D.J. Moore, Wide Receiver
Finally, the Panthers entered the 2019 season with D.J. Moore at the top of their depth chart. The second-year receiver had a solid performance in Week 1 against the Rams, catching seven passes for 76 yards. He was unable to find the end zone.
Tampa Bay is not known for having a lockdown secondary. Moore needs to have a big game to help lead the Carolina offense. If he can break out with a big game, the Panthers’ offense should be able to put up the necessary offensive output to come through with a big win.