Panthers vs. Bucs preview

SERIES: 16th regular-season meeting. Panthers lead series 9-6. The Panthers have dominated the series of late, winning 8 of the last 10 games including five straight at Raymond James Stadium, site of Sunday's NFC South showdown.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The running game has been working so well, there's no reason for the Panthers to get too aggressive against the Tampa-2. They'll pound away with RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, looking to set up high percentage shots for QB Jake Delhomme. Conversely, Tampa Bay needs to force third-and-long and come after Delhomme with disguised blitz packages. ... The Bucs scuffled against Denver's much-maligned defense last Sunday, and now face a Panthers unit that hasn't allowed an offensive touchdown in nine quarters. Tampa Bay also knows Carolina has faced LaDainian Tomlinson, Matt Forte', Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner and Larry Johnson without allowing any to rush for 100 yards or a touchdown. So the pressure will be on QB Jeff Garcia, who is expected to get his first start since Week 1 with Brian Griese banged up.

KEY INJURIES: Panthers: LT Jordan Gross (concussion) would again be replaced by Frank Omiyale; No. 3 WR D.J. Hackett (sprained knee) is likely to be replaced by Dwayne Jarrett; RT Jeff Otah (sprained ankle) is uncertain. Bucs: Griese (elbow, shoulder) did not practice midweek and isn't expected to start; WR Joey Galloway (foot) could miss his fourth straight game; LB Barrett Ruud (knee sprain) is uncertain.

FAST FACTS: Delhomme is 7-1 in his career against Tampa Bay. ... Garcia has thrown eight TDs and three INTs in winning his last four starts against Carolina.



--QB Matt Moore will be the No. 3 quarterback this week.

--WR Dwayne Jarrett will replace D.J. Hackett as the No. 3 receiver this week for Carolina.

--OT Jeff Otah (ankle) returned to practice on Thursday and hopes to start this week. If not, then Jeremy Bridges will get the call.

--OT Jordan Gross (concussion) returned to practice Thursday and declared himself ready for Tampa Bay.

--WR Steve Smith has four 100-yard receiving games in the last six games against Tampa Bay. He had none in either of the games last year. Of course, he didn't have Jake Delhomme, either.

--LB Na'il Diggs (foot) returned to practice on Thursday.


--QB Brian Griese did not practice on Thursday because of a bruised elbow and shoulder strain. He will try to throw some Friday but is not expected to play against the Panthers.

--QB Jeff Garcia looked sharp Thursday in practice, according to Jon Gruden, and will start against the Carolina Panthers.

--QB Luke McCown took limited reps with the No. 1 offense and will be the No. 2 quarterback Sunday against the Panthers.

--FB B.J. Askew did not practice because of a hamstring strain and is not expected to play against the Panthers.

--LB Barrett Ruud has a right knee sprain and was limited in practice Thursday. He is expected to be limited in practice Friday and will be a game-time decision.

--S Sabby Piscitelli returned to practice despite an elbow injury and had full participation.

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