Well, it’s that time of year again--football’s finally back. And thank God it is, for baseball is getting old, and there’s nothing better than sitting on couch for twelve hours with nothing but football on your mind.
To be honest, this looks to be a season with tons of uncertainty for the Panthers, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Can a completely new group of wide receivers match the production of seasoned veterans such as Brandon LaFell and Steve Smith? Can an inexperienced offensive line provide enough protection for Cam Newton? While there were some encouraging signs in preseason especially in week two’s matchup against Kansas City, this week one game against Tampa should give us fans a good indication on how this season will turn out.
Another huge point of emphasis week one for Carolina is the health of Cam Newton. Of course, this issue arose due to the fractured rib that Cam suffered in a preseason game in New England two weeks ago. Since then, the Panthers’ star has been forced to miss numerous practices until minor participation on Thursday and then finally full participation Friday. It was also reported late last week that the Panthers would prefer that Cam sat out in order to let his rib fully heal before playing again. **It is now being reported that Newton is "unlikely to play in season opener" via Bleacher Report.
For the Bucs, the most notable change to their team is the hiring of former Bears’ coach Lovie Smith. Player wise, the team draft former Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans with their first round pick and brought over QB Josh McCown from Chicago. When looking at their roster, this Tampa team is surprisingly dangerous offensively with the likes of Evans, McCrown, RB Doug Martin, and WR Vincent Jackson. Despite only winning four games last season, this Buccaneers team certainly appears to have the ability to surprise a few teams this season.
Matchup To Watch For: G Trai Turner Vs DT Gerald McCoy
As I mentioned earlier, the offensive line is one the biggest question marks for this Panthers’ team in 2014. This is mostly due to some relatively inexperienced starters on the line, including rookie guard Trai Turner. Turner, who was drafted by Carolina with the 92nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, will not only be the starting lineup despite the fact that he’s the youngest player on the Panthers’ roster, but will also be matched up again one of the best defensive tackles in the league in Gerald McCoy. While this seems to be a recipe for disaster for the defending NFC South Champions, hopefully Turner can stand his ground against a difficult matchup.
Based upon the fact that Cam Newton will likely sit this season opener out, I'm going to have to say that I'm going with Tampa in today's contest While Derrick Anderson is certainly an experienced backup quarterback, he's not the playmaker that Cam is and the Panthers' offense could struggle to move the ball throughout the game. Bucs win 14-6.