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EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates a successful two-point conversion in the fourth quarter of the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on January 02, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo : Elsa/Getty Images)
Two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum will face off this coming Sunday, January 9, in Florida when the NFC South cellar-dwellers, Carolina Panthers, go head-to-head with the NFC South champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Here is a breakdown of the Panthers vs Bucs matchup.
Carolina Panthers installed as +7.5 underdogs
Carolina’s losing woes show no sign of abating as the Panthers crashed to their sixth consecutive defeat with an 18-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 17. It was another disappointing result for the Panthers, who dropped to 5-11 for the season. It has been a stunning downfall for the Panthers, who once led the NFC after opening the season with three straight wins.
Things are bound to get tougher for the Panthers as they will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their regular-season finale. The Panthers have lost their last three games against the Bucs dating back to 2020. The two teams met each other just two weeks ago, with Carolina suffering a 32-6 defeat at home.
Cam Newton started his last game for the Panthers in that contest, completing just 7 of 13 passes for 61 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Sam Darnold had a better showing in that game, throwing for 190 yards.
Darnold got his starting position back in Week 17, but he offered little difference to the Panthers’ attack. He completed just 17 of 26 passes for 132 yards with no touchdowns and one interception in the loss to the Saints. Darnold was pressured all afternoon as he was sacked a total of seven times.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter Week 18 as -7.5 favorites
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers extended their winning streak to two games with a nerve-wracking 28-24 victory over the New York Jets in Week 17. It was a big win for the Bucs, who moved up to third place in the NFC standings. They benefited from the shock loss of Dallas to Arizona over the weekend.
The Bucs still have a shot of landing the No. 2 seed in the NFC. They need to win against the Panthers in Week 18 and hope that the Rams lose to the 49ers in their NFC West clash. For Tampa Bay to record the all-important win, it needs a strong showing from Tom Brady.
He was outstanding in the win against the Jets, completing 34 of 50 passes for 410 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Brady engineered a majestic 93-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes and 12 seconds to seal the comeback win for Tampa Bay. Cyril Grayson made the play of the game, catching a 33-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds left to hand Tampa Bay the victory.
Grayson is expected to play a major part for the Bucs in Week 18, with Antonio Brown walking away from the Tampa Bay franchise. Brown made his grand exit during the third quarter against the Jets. The Bucs are running thin in the wide receiver ranks, with Chris Godwin also sidelined because of a knee injury.
Tampa Bay wins and covers the spread.
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