Strategy and Personnel: Panthers vs. Bucs

Bucs RT Kenyetta Walker vs. Panthers LDE Julius Peppers -- This is always a war. Peppers has complained in the past about Walker getting his hands under Peppers' facemask, though it has rarely been called. Peppers is having a remarkable season, and the Bucs might need to give Walker some help on Sunday.

QB Jake Delhomme has been sacked 14 times in the last four games but refuses to blame his offensive line, instead saying that he sometimes tends to hold on to the ball too long.

"The thing about it is that we have played some teams that have been better at rushing the quarterback than we played early on," Delhomme said. "You look at Atlanta and then Tampa Bay with (Simeon) Rice and New Orleans with Charles Grant, and we have played some teams that can rush the passer a good bit. That happens. Sometimes it's just my fault for not getting rid of the ball. That's part of the game. Those guys are pretty good on defense, too."

In truth, though, Carolina's offensive line simply hasn't blocked as well in recent weeks. But don't expect any changes on the offensive line unless Todd Fordham returns to replace Matt Willig at right tackle. That probably won't happen.

--TE Mike Seidman is getting more playing time at tight end than rookie Michael Gaines in recent weeks.

"In our multiple tight end sets, he and Kris Mangum play quite a bit," head coach John Fox said. "I think he's caught a few more balls as of late, and that's what people usually take notice of. But he's out there a lot more than that for blocking purposes. Mike's done a good job for us here as of late."

Seidman has four receptions in the last two games. He had just five catches in the previous 12 games.

--WR Muhsin Muhammad did not have a big game against the Bucs in the last meeting (two catches for 52 yards). But he should be a major factor this week. If the Bucs send extra people to cover him, then Keary Colbert could be open.

--RB Nick Goings ran for 106 yards in his last game against the Bucs.

--LB Dan Morgan is back healthy and will start at middle linebacker this time around against Tampa Bay.

--CB Chris Gamble hopes to rebound from giving up two touchdown passes last week against Atlanta.

--RT Matt Willig is likely to continue to start for the Panthers instead of Todd Fordham.

GAME PLAN: The Bucs had a lot of luck with screen passes in the last meeting with Carolina. In fact, running back Michael Pittman had more than 100 yards receiving and two receiving touchdowns.

But the Panthers will have middle linebacker Dan Morgan in the game this time, which should take some of those plays away. Morgan was named to the Pro Bowl even though he has missed four games this year.

"That's a guy I believe is the best middle linebacker in the game," Panthers safety Mike Minter said. "When he gets in there, you know he's in there. When he's not in there, you can tell it's a different defense.

"Put him on the field, and it's a totally different defense. We're dominating people, and he's the head of that domination. It's just amazing for a guy to miss four or five games and still get in there. It just shows the respect he has around the league."

Offensively, the Panthers will look to get rid of the ball more quickly, especially with the offensive line showing some flaws. The Bucs have been piling up sacks on defense, and the Panthers are vulnerable to speed rushers like Simeon Rice.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

Bucs RT Kenyetta Walker vs. Panthers LDE Julius Peppers -- This is always a war. Peppers has complained in the past about Walker getting his hands under Peppers' facemask, though it has rarely been called. Peppers is having a remarkable season, and the Bucs might need to give Walker some help on Sunday.

INJURY IMPACT: The Panthers have a short injury list. DE Kemp Rasmussen (neck) is listed as questionable, and DE Al Wallace (knee) and FB Casey Cramer (concussion) are probable.

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