Game Preview: Buccaneers at Panthers

Read on to find out everything you need to know about Sunday's game including which matchups to keep an eye on, who might be sidelined due to injuries and what


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-10) at Carolina Panthers (4-7)



KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET

GAMEDATE: 12/06/09


TV: FOX (Barry Tomkins, Eddie George)

PREDICTION: Bucs 23-19

KEYS TO THE GAME: Can the Bucs stop what they know is coming? Carolina has rushed for 566 yards and seven touchdowns in the past two meetings, and will only lean harder on the ground game with QB Matt Moore expected to start in place of Jake Delhomme (broken finger). Bucs rookie QB Josh Freeman is coming off his best game at Atlanta, but Carolina has a strong pass defense. Freeman (eight fumbles, two lost in five games) needs to protect the ball and get more help from RB Cadillac Williams, who is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry.

FAST FACTS: The Bucs are 0-5 on the road. ... Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart has 225 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the past two meetings.


Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams vs. Bucs LB Barrett Ruud. Williams has been part of a backfield with Jonathan Stewart that has combined to rush for nearly 600 yards in the last two games against the Bucs. Tampa Bay is back playing the one-gap, Tampa Two zone that has made Ruud a player again.

Panthers QB Matt Moore vs. Bucs CB Ronde Barber. Moore started a garbage time game at Tampa Bay in 2007 and won. But he has only started three games in his career. This is a big chance for him to unseat Jake Delhomme as a starter. But Ronde Barber is a threat, with more than 25 sacks and 30 interceptions.

Bucs LT Donald Penn vs. Panthers DE Julius Peppers. Penn has done a nice job against the elite pass rushers. He faces a motivated one in Peppers.

GAME PLAN: The Bucs hope their return to a one-gap scheme will help them stop the run the way it did at Atlanta when the Falcons averaged 2.9 yards per carry. Then again, that's the same scheme the Panthers ran all over a year ago when Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for 299 yards rushing and four TDs.

"They ran over us, there's no doubt about it," coach Raheem Morris said. "They took the last 15 snaps, whatever it was, and they ran the football every time except for a bear pass to go ahead and win the football game. We had just got some momentum type plays -- I believe it was a big kickoff return and an interception return from Tanard Jackson. They got the ball backed up with us having the opportunity to get the ball back and possibly score and win that football game and we were not able to do it. That's all you've got to do, remind your team of that today. We're going to go out there and practice, going to practice hard, play hard, prepare ourselves to stop the run and win the football game."

Offensively, the Bucs will try to control the football on the ground, but they've not been able to accomplish that this season. Much of the burden will fall on rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, who bounced back from a miserable game two weeks ago and played well at Atlanta.



--CB Aqib Talib has a hamstring injury and did not practice Thursday or Friday. It's unlikely he will play Sunday at Carolina. He held the Panthers' Steve Smith to one reception in their last meeting.

--CB Elbert Mack could start at left cornerback Sunday if Aqib Talib is unable to play.

--WR Michael Clayton has a knee injury and did not practice Thursday or Friday. He is expected to miss two games with an MCL sprain.

--DE Michael Bennett did not participate in practice Thursday or Friday because of a turf toe injury.

--OT Donald Penn (knee) returned to practice Thursday and will start against the Panthers.


--WR Muhsin Muhammad went from practicing on a limited basis to not practicing at all on Thursday because of a knee injury, leaving his status for Sunday up in the air. He did return for full participation on Friday.

--WR Dwayne Jarrett could have a chance to start this week, but he's slowed by an ankle injury and has missed the last three days of work. He is doubtful for Sunday.

--WR Charly Martin could be the surprise starter this week in Carolina if Muhsin Muhammad and Dwayne Jarrett can't go.

--QB Jake Delhomme did not practice for a third straight day and he will not start this week.

--QB Matt Moore will start for the first time since 2007 on Sunday.

--DE Charles Johnson is likely to miss a third straight game with a pectoral strain.

--CB Captain Munnerlyn has been ruled out for this week with a concussion.

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