Week 4 important for Panthers, Bucs

Sunday's NFC South showdown between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers is taking on an added significance, given the state of the division.

Both Carolina and Tampa Bay are 2-1, so the winner will take a healthy lead in the division given the head-to-head tiebreaker involved.

Also, the winner will increase its lead to 2 1/2 games over the New Orleans Saints, who are idle this Sunday, and possibly increase their lead to three over the Atlanta Falcons if they lose this week to Houston.

But although the Panthers have dominated the series of late, winning seven of the last eight games against Jon Gruden's club, they have plenty of concern heading into this game with the status of their offensive and defensive leader in doubt.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme, who is 7-1 against the Bucs during his career, injured his elbow in Sunday's 27-20 win over the Falcons and is listed as day-to-day.

An MRI on Monday showed no structural damage and team officials are listing it as a strained elbow.

Delhomme removed himself from the game in the third quarter after feeling sharp pain in his elbow. He injured elbow on the series before, but stayed in to throw a touchdown to tie the game at 17.

He threw a few more passes, but one particular completion to Brad Hoover sent him over his own pain threshold and he took himself out. Delhomme said at that point he wasn't helping the team, he was hurting it.

"It's OK right now," Delhomme said. "It feels fine. But if I grab something or whatnot, it'll hurt a little bit trying to generate some power. And that's what happened (on Sunday) during the game. It just got to the point where the last pass, it really hurt."

It's unclear if he will play against Tampa Bay and you can almost bet coach John Fox will not say anything until Sunday and call this one a game-time decision to keep the Bucs guessing.

If Delhomme can't go, the Panthers have a solid No. 2 option in David Carr.

As for Morgan, he injured his shoulder, hamstring and heal on Sunday against the Falcons, all coming on tackles of Jerious Norwood.

None of the injuries proved too severe, but he does have tendinitis in his heal. It's unclear if that or the hamstring will keep him out.

If Morgan can't play, look for the Panthers to move rookie Jon Beason to middle linebacker. That would mean Na'il Diggs or James Anderson would start at the weak-side linebacker spot.


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