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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Three things to watch as Bucs take on Panthers Thursday night

Florida Football Insiders

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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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It’s an NFC South showdown, where the loser knows they’re already off to an 0 – 2 start after Thursday night. And, the Bucs know that one of their former teammates is ready to help put them there.

With that in mind, here are three things to watch his Tampa Bay travels to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers:

McCoy goes against his old team

For the first time in his 10-year career Gerald McCoy has a new place to call home, and will play his second game with the Panthers tonight against the team that drafted him third overall in 2010, and he went to six Pro bowls for over the course of the last nine seasons. McCoy (above) was unceremoniously shown the door for salary cap reasons earlier this offseason and signed a one-year deal with the division rival Carolina.

McCoy did little of consequence in the opening loss to the Rams last week, but the Bucs have had a history previously, of players leaving them and succeeding elsewhere. We’ll find out if he starts making an impact tonight against Jameis Winston & Company.

Cut down the mistakes.

If the Bucs weren’t busy turning the ball over, which they did four times, including three Winston interceptions last week, they were committing penalties and having blown assignments on their offensive line.

Throw in: Tampa Bay cost themselves three different times with penalties on third down on defense that kept 49er drives alive, and you can see why head coach Bruce Arians has been stressing for the last few days that those kind of mistakes cannot be overcome.

The Buccaneers will have their hands full with a road environment against a division rival as it is, but as Arians said, if it’s “the Bucs beating the Bucs,” they won’t stand much chance anyway.

Contain McCaffrey

Clearly Cam Newton is still trying to get back to full health with a surgically-repaired throwing shoulder and an injured foot and everyone now realizes the biggest key to get the Panthers going is running back, Christian McCaffrey.

McCaffrey had over a hundred yards from scrimmage in the opening loss to L.A. last week and had likewise over a hundred yards combined catching and running a football in both games last year against the Buccaneers.

Look for Tampa Bay to try to shadow him with Pro Bowl linebacker Lavonte David and rookie linebacker and former number 1 pick out of LSU, Devin White. Those two will be heavily counted on to neutralize the guy that has become the Panthers best offensive weapon.

If they do, it will go a long way towards helping the Buccs win their first game of the season.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs moving up in our latest power rankings

Jamil King

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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With conference championships now over, all focus will shift to bowl games in college. Florida Atlantic was the lone state team playing for a title last week, defeating the UAB Blazers in blowout fashion. In the NFL, the Bucs made it three straight victories.

The Dolphins almost made it two in a row before the late-game drama. The Jacksonville Jaguars offense fell flat at home in a blowout defeat. That all leads into how our top 5 looks heading into this weekend:

Florida Gators- The Gators stay on top despite not participating in the SEC title game. They may not have played a game, but they still got a win by being selected to the Orange Bowl. Dan Mullen is now two for two in his Gators career in gaining entry into the “New Years Six.” Two seasons of a row with a big bowl win can only help the gators getting back to where they want to be, and that is competing for championships.

Florida Atlantic- The Owls were able to win the C-USA championship destroying UAB 49-6. This was the second title in three years for the Owls, and their great success under Lane Kiffin. All good things come to an end in this day and age in college football for non-power five schools. And so, Kiffin is now on his way to “the Grove” and will be the head coach of Ole Miss. The Owls reward is to play host to SMU in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The Bucs are riding a hot streak right now. They are now on a three-game winning streak. The offense continues to put up big numbers behind QB Jameis Winston. Winston, who threw for a career hight 456 yards Sunday, has the second-most yards and touchdowns, but leads the league in INTs by a large margin.

The defense has been playing very well during this winning streak. Next, the Bucs will go on the road to face a struggling Detroit Lions team.

UCF Knights- The Knights had a rare off week during the AAC Title game. They had won the previous two and Saturday the Memphis Tigers won this one, avoiding the Knights. UCF, however, still won 9 games and will look to make it 10 in the bowl game. They will head an hour south to play Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa.

Many wanted the Knights to draw an in-state team like FSU or Miami; instead, it will be Marshall. It is important for UCF to end the year strong with a decisive victory.

Miami Dolphins- The Dolphins didn’t win this past weekend over the New York Jets. They did, though, show a lot in this contest. For a team that looked down and out the whole first half of the season, they have completely turned it around.

If it wasn’t for a late review on pass interference, the Dolphins likely would have won their fourth game in their last six. Head coach Brian Flores was livid after the game, and that heart and passion has put his name in the running for coach of the year.

No, he won’t win the award, but what he and this team have done has been impressive with the lack of talent on the roster.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs QB Winston in limbo with injured thumb

Florida Football Insiders

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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The Bucs are very much concerned and waiting to see the status of quarterback Jameis Winston injured thumb suffered in Sunday’s wild victory over the Colts.

And they have to be prepared to be without their starting quarterback this weekend in Detroit.

First, credit to Pewterreport.com which was at teammate Mike Evans’ charity bowling event Monday evening, and where the fifth year quarterback participated bowling left-handed with a brace seen on his right hand and thumb:

Winston injured the thumb at some point late in the second quarter of the 38 – 35 victory over Indianapolis. Coach Bruce Arians relayed after the game that Winston came out for the second half warm up and couldn’t grip the ball, when he was trying to get ready for the third quarter.

He went inside for an x-ray and backup quarterback Ryan Griffin ran the team for the first series of the second half. Winston returned and threw for over 200 yards in the second half including the game-winning touchdown to Breshad Perriman in the final five minutes of the game.

After the game Arians revealed that Winston had what he described as “a slight, slight crack in the thumb” that showed up on the X-ray.

On Monday afternoon at his regular news conference, the Buccaneers coach said that it would be day by day evaluation, that Winston had swelling on the thumb and would be getting a second opinion from a specialist:

The injury comes at a time of great debate about whether Winston will be kept on for the Buccaneers beyond this season.? He’s currently playing on the 5th year option of his rookie contract for $20 million.

As we wrote last week, Arians made it clear that the evaluation will begin after the season as to whether Winston will be back for 2020 and long-term.

The former number one overall pick is still leading the NFL in interceptions this season with 23, but he is also second in the NFL in touchdown passes and yardage. And, the Bucs have responded with three straight wins late in the year to keep their NFC wild-card hopes barely alive.

Tampa Bay had hoped use veteran Blaine Gabbert, if something happened to Winston, but Gabbert was hurt in the preseason with a separated left shoulder, placed on injured reserve and will not be able to be activated down the stretch of the season.

So that means if Winston cannot play, Griffin, a six year veteran who has played well in the last two preseasons, will be expected to get his first start Sunday.

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