No. 3: Week 2, at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — 1 p.m. on FOX
The Panthers couldn’t have been assigned a worse time to face the new-look Buccaneers than in Tampa’s first home game of the year. Rather than facing Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and the rest of the Buccaneers’ high-powered offense at any old time, they’ll have to do it in what will surely be a much-anticipated home debut for the team’s newest additions.
Much like the Packers game, the September 20th matchup against Tampa Bay will be a huge test for a young Panthers defense. The young defensive backs will have virtually no NFL experience when they are tasked with defending Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and the aforementioned Gronkowski. Brady and Gronk were trouble enough on their own in New England, so just imagine what they can do with stud receivers Evans and Godwin in the mix as well. In addition to the lack of experience, size could be a huge disadvantage for the Panthers here. All three of the pass-catchers listed above, as well as OJ Howard, are at least 6’1.” Only Tre Boston and Jeremy Chinn, who will likely be the nickel man, are expected starting DBs that are at least six-foot.
The combination of a young defense along with a new quarterback and coaching staff make this game nearly impossible to win. It makes sense that the NFL would give the Brady-led Bucs a very winnable home opener, so the Panthers are really just victims of the brutal business of professional sports. If they have any chance of winning though, it’ll likely be the result of a big game from Bridgewater.
Tampa Bay ranked 30th in passing yards allowed per game in 2019 and gave up the seventh-most touchdown passes in the league. In his one start versus the Bucs last year, Bridgewater completed 26 of 34 passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns. If the Panthers want any hope of winning this game, they’ll need a similar game from him in the first matchup this season.