Here are a few thoughts on Sunday's game between 1-3 Carolina and 0-5 Tampa Bay during a Panther news week so slow that the "big" news is that Jon Beason never really did invite Julius Peppers to dinner to talk about his performance after all and that Beason is sorry that he kinda sorta called Peppers out last week on radio station WFNZ (in a pretty gentle and quite honest way, I thought -- nothing much to be sorry about there).
What a tempest in a teapot that whole thing is. In any case:
** If the Panthers can’t gain 100 yards rushing against Tampa Bay Sunday – and they’ve only done that once in four tries this season – then their run game is really in trouble. Tampa Bay doesn’t have a good run defense (28th in the NFL) and by all rights Carolina should be able to beat them up a little.
But Carolina badly needs a breakout game from DeAngelo Williams to loosen everything else up. Neutralizing Tampa Bay’s fine middle linebacker Barrett Ruud will also be a key.
** I bet the NFL is kicking itself for sending Tampa Bay over to London to face the New England Patriots Oct.25th. The Pats in England? Sure. They’re a glamour team. Bucs? They’re horrible, they’re filled with players who are household names only in their own households – they are not exactly your ideal representatives for American football.
** I’m not saying Panther wide receivers coach Richard Williamson is old, but he once was an assistant for Bear Bryant at Alabama. He was also Tampa Bay’s head coach for the entire 1991 season, back when the Carolina Panthers didn’t exist. Incidentally, who do you think is older – Williamson or Bobcats head coach Larry Brown? Brown wins by an eyelash – 69 to 68.
** Expect at least one no-name Panther to make a huge play Sunday against Tampa Bay and possibly more. This is the sort of game where that happens – Tampa Bay is bad enough to present a lot of opportunities in that regard.
** The Panthers have fallen a long way since their 12-4 regular season in 2008, that’s for sure. But they haven’t fallen this far.
My prediction: Carolina 26, Tampa Bay 16.
(The stats: I'm 3-1 picking the Panthers so far this season, having missed the Dallas game and gotten the other 3 right. My preseason prediction for Carolina was 7-9).
Editor's note: Scott will be blogging live here on Sunday for the Carolina-Tampa Bay game. You can also follow him on Twitter: @scott_fowler.