The rivalries have ran deep in the NFC South ever since it was formed in 2002. Tampa Bay and Carolina’s rivalry is talked about the least, but it’s a rivalry nonetheless. The two teams have played each other 37 times since Carolina’s inaugural season in 1995. Carolina leads the all-time series 23-14. The Panthers and Bucs have played each other less than the other rivals because they weren’t in the same division until 2002.
These two teams have had some dog fights over the years, but the most heated ones came in the mid-2000s. Players from those teams have been quoted as saying that they were some of the most physically and mentally draining games in their career. Carolina legends Jake Delhomme, Stephen Davis, Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammad, Brad Hoover, Mike Rucker, Julius Peppers, Dan Morgan, Kris Jenkins and Mike Minter battling against the Bucs legends Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and Mike Alstott.
In the years of their NFC South rivalry before Cam Newton, Carolina won 11 games and lost 7. Carolina’s largest margin of victory was 20 points and the average point total for their wins was a little over 9 points. Tampa’s largest margin of victory was 24 points and the average point total for their wins was 13 points. Carolina swept Tampa in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2009. Tampa swept Carolina in 2002 and 2010.
Cam Newton Era 2011-Present
In the years since Cam has been in the league, Carolina has all but dominated Tampa Bay. Carolina has won 11 out of 16 games by an average of 16 points. In the 5 Tampa wins, they averaged 5 points per win. It should be noted that two Carolina wins and one loss was with Derek Anderson starting at quarterback. In the last eight years, Carolina has scored a total of 417 points against Tampa, while Tampa has only scored 269 points against Carolina in the same time span. The Panthers have swept the Bucs in five of the last eight years.
It’s hard to tell what Tampa will do this year, but on paper they have a decent roster. New head coach, Bruce Arians, has always had a knack for getting teams to overachieve. Tampa did little to upgrade their roster during the offseason. Tampa’s notable transactions:
Released DE Vinny Curry
Re-signed OT Donovan Smith
Re-Signed RB Peyton Barber
Traded WR Desean Jackson to Philadelphia
Released DT Gerald McCoy
Signed DT Ndamukong Suh
Drafted LB Devin White from LSU
Signed S Darian Stewart
That’s not a whole lot of movement for a team that only won 5 games in 2018.
Barring any major injuries, Carolina should do well against the Bucs. Marty Hurney upgraded the Panthers significantly this offseason, and they look to build on the promising start they had in 2018, where they started the season 6-2. Carolina’s notable transactions:
Released CB Captain Munnerlyn
Re-signed S Eric Reid
Signed C Matt Paradis
Re-signed OT Daryl Williams
Signed DE/OLB Bruce Irvin
Signed WR Chris Hogan
Re-signed DT Kyle Love
Drafted DE/OLB Brian Burns
Drafted OT Greg Little
Signed WR Aldrick Robinson
Signed CB Javien Elliott
Signed DT Gerald McCoy
Signed S Tre Boston
That’s a huge pull for Hurney and the Panthers, and it shows that they’re in win-now mode. Hopefully, it translates into wins on the field in 2019.
What to Expect in 2019
The expectations for 2019 are that Carolina sweeps Tampa Bay. When you compare both sides of the ball, Carolina dominates on paper. If Cam Newton stays healthy, he is far and away better than Jameis Winston. Here is a comparison of key players from both teams:
QB Cam Newton
QB Jameis Winston
In 14 games, Newton threw for 3,395 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2018.
In 11 games, Winston threw for 2,992 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2018.
Newton, when healthy, wins this battle every time. In his career, Newton has passed for 2,929 yards, 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 13 total games. He’s also ran for 520 yards and 9 touchdowns. Winston, who has had some good games against Carolina, has passed for 1,859 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in seven total games.
RB Christian McCaffrey
RB Peyton Barber
Last season, Christian McCaffrey had 219 carries for 1,098 yards (5.0 AVG per carry) and 7 touchdowns in 16 games. He also had 107 receptions for 867 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Last season, Peyton Barber had 234 carries for 871 yards (3.7 AVG per carry) and 5 touchdowns in 16 games. He also had 20 receptions for 92 yards and 1 touchdown.
There’s no doubt that McCaffrey wins this matchup in regards to offensive production. He is a Pro Bowl Caliber running back, who is an asset in the running game and passing game.
WR Curtis Samuel
WR Mike Evans
Last season, Samuel had 39 receptions for 494 touchdowns and 5 touchdowns in 13 games. He missed time due to injury and it took time for him to become more integrated into the offense when he returned.
Last season, Evans had 86 receptions for 1,524 yards and 8 touchdowns in 16 games. While Evans has been dominant in the NFL, he’s struggled against James Bradberry and the Panthers. Last season, Evans had a total of 5 receptions for 64 yards against Carolina, so that should be something to watch.
Evans wins this matchup based purely on his dominance and the unknowns about Samuel. Samuel was the 2019 training camp MVP, but this isn’t based on potential. Samuel is very talented and has all the tools to be a special player. Time will tell….
TE Greg Olsen
TE OJ Howard
Olsen, who has had trouble staying healthy the last two years, only had 27 receptions for 291 yards and 4 touchdowns last season, in 9 games. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and get back to his Pro Bowl level, but there are no guarantees.
Last season, Howard had 34 receptions for 565 yards and 5 touchdowns in 10 games. 2 of those touchdowns came against Carolina in week 9.
Word out of Tampa is, Howard will be used even more this year in the passing game. Olsen has had a healthy offseason and looks to come back strong this year. With so many unknowns about both players, Olsen and Howard are tied in how much of an impact they’ll have in these games. Hopefully, Olsen will be back to his old self.
Tampa Bay’s Defense
Last season, Carolina’s defense was in the middle of the league, as they allowed the 15th most yards per game and the 19th most points per game.
Tampa’s defense was one of the worst in the league, as they were ranked 27th in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed.
Carolina’s defense should be much improved this year, with the additions of Gerald McCoy, Bruce Irvin, Brian Burns, Tre Boston and Javien Elliott. Carolina will also have a multi-look defense instead of a base 4-3 like in year’s past, so it will be interesting to see how much of a pass rush will be generated this season. Tampa’s defense didn’t change much, as they added rookie linebacker, Devin White, and essentially swapped Gerald McCoy for Ndamukong Suh. Barring any issues for Carolina, the Panthers’ defense should dominate against the Buccaneers.
Things rarely go as planned in the NFL. If Carolina stays healthy, they should no doubt sweep Tampa Bay, and convincingly. Even though new head coach, Bruce Arians, is a great coach, the fact that the entire coaching staff was replaced this offseason, puts them behind from the beginning. Although, anything can happen.
By: Norris Thornburg August 17, 2019