It seems like just yesterday American football aficionados were waiting for what felt like an eternity for the 2016 NFL season to begin.
Yet, here we are, already through one quarter of the new campaign as we head into a Week 5 that projects to be laden with enough storylines and plot twists to make a presidential election cycle jealous.
In Week 5, Monday Night Football features two disappointing NFC South teams, as the 1-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel north to take on the surprisingly 1-3 Carolina Panthers.
The Buccaneers put forth a forgettable effort in Week 4 against the Denver Broncos, losing to the defending Super Bowl champions by a score of 27-7.
But Week 4 was much worse for the Panthers. Not only did Carolina lose to their NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons 48-33, but superstar quarterback Cam Newton was knocked out of the game in what can only be described as an absolutely devastating development.
Newton is still in concussion protocol and will be inactive for Monday Night Football. Thus, this is truly a showdown of teams that need a win to save their season from spiraling out of control.
So, will Dirk Koetter’s bunch take advantage of Carolina’s bad luck and cement a huge road win, or will Ron Rivera figure out a way to get enough out of backup quarterback Derek Anderson to be victorious in front of the Bank of America Stadium faithful?
Find out with these five bold predictions.
Jameis Winston Is Nowhere To Be Found
Let’s be honest: Thus far in 2016, Jameis Winston looks nothing like the quarterback who tallied 4,042 yards and and 22 TDs as a rookie last season.
Whether or not it’s solely Winston’s fault, or has more to do with problems within Tampa Bay’s system, as suggested by The Ringer, can be argued until the cows come home. What isn’t debatable is the fact that he’s thrown an alarming eight interceptions this season, and the Buccaneers have suffered as a result.
Expect to see more of the same mistakes from the NFL sophomore against Carolina.
Derek Anderson Electrifies
Derek Anderson is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL, and filled in admirably in relief of Cam Newton last week against Atlanta, tallying 175 yards and two TDs. Anderson did throw two interceptions, but one came in garbage time when the Panthers needed to move the ball in a hurry.
Tampa Bay’s defense has been nothing short of abysmal this season. According to ESPN, the Buccaneers have given up 128 points thus far, which is good for third worst in the NFL.
Thus, I firmly believe Anderson will electrify, finishing with over 250 yards and three TDs.
Jacquizz Rodgers Tallies Over 100 Total Yards
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Tampa Bay will likely be without both first-string RB Doug Martin and second-string RB Charles Sims during Monday Night Football. As a result, third-stringer Jacquizz Rodgers is expected to be the Buccaneers feature back.
Rodgers hasn’t done much in the NFL over the last two seasons, but did have some success early in his career when he played for Dirk Koetter (who was an offensive coordinator at the time) with the Atlanta Falcons.
Jacquizz is not going to intimidate the Panthers by any means, but should receive an abundance of carries and targets in the pass attack, and by default, rack up over 100 total yards and one TD.
Panthers Sack Jameis Winston Six Times
In Week 4, Carolina’s defensive line played a decent game, tallying three sacks and seven total quarterback hits on Matt Ryan.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Falcons showcase a top-five offensive line, which makes this quite an achievement despite the overall outcome of the game.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay’s offensive line allowed five sacks on Winston in Week 4, and the Denver Broncos had him running for his life all game. Expect Carolina to put overwhelming pocket pressure on Jameis, ultimately sacking him six times.
Panthers Win By No Less Than 10 Points
While I don’t like what I’ve seen from the Panthers this season and playing without Cam Newton is obviously less than ideal, I firmly believe they are the far superior team in this matchup, even with Derek Anderson under center.
Led by an admirable performance from Anderson and dominance by their defensive line in the trenches, Carolina will comfortably cement a victory by no less than 10 points. And Tampa Bay will sadly be headed home wondering how things went so wrong so quickly this season.
[Featured Image by Cliff McBride/Getty Images]