PFF Preview: Buccaneers @ Panthers, Week 15
The Carolina Panthers (4-8-1) are in a tough spot facing the recently-eliminated-from-playoff-contention Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-11). Cam Newton is out for likely the season after a car accident early this week — thankfully the accident didn’t leave Newton with life-threatening injuries. The Panthers, however, are left with Derek Anderson to lead them past the Falcons and the Saints to the NFC South title.
This game is the second pairing of these teams this year, but that Week 1 matchup was three months ago and each team has changed since then. Anderson has started one game this year and it was in Week 1 against the Bucs — he came away with a +1.1 passing grade and had a solid stat line (70.6% completion rate, 230 yards, two TDs, zero INTs) en route to a 20-14 victory. This was Anderson’s first real game action since 2010 in Arizona, and first time since 2009 with Cleveland that he graded positively in passing (+1.3).
Looking at that Week 1 matchup, Anderson had his most success in play-action passes where he dropped back 36.1% of the time. In 13 such plays, Anderson completed 9-of-13 passes for 79 yards, two TDs and a QB rating of 124.7. His QB rating in 23 drop-backs in non-play-action passes was 91.6. While a handful of Anderson’s passes were underneath, he still attempted 12 passes that went 10+ yards. His 160 yards in the air were ninth-best while 69.9% of his total yards coming before the catch was second in the NFL.
Gerald McCoy will be putting pressure on Anderson up the middle as he is by far the best pass rushing interior defensive lineman in the NFL. His +35.7 pass rushing grade is higher than anyone not named J.J. Watt and is more than double the next closest player at his position. With nine sacks, nine hits, and 26 hurries, his 44 total pressures is second to Ndamukong Suh, who has 54 more pass rush snaps, and his Pass Rushing Productivity rate is at 9.5, also second in the NFL. In the Week 1 matchup, McCoy recorded a sack, a hit, and a hurry with a +2.3 pass rush grade and in his best game this year, he rattled Drew Brees by getting four hits and five hurries with Brees ending up with a -1.5 grade.
If McCoy gets to Anderson, it could end up being a long day for the Panthers’ passing game.
Jonathan Stewart – Stewart is doing his best to keep the Panthers alive for the playoffs. The past two weeks he has totaled a +4.7 grade elevating him to our seventh-best running back for the season.
Luke Kuechly – His +5.5 grade in Week 1 provided a path for the defending Defensive Player of the Year to an even better season than last. His +21.0 grade and 72 stops are both improvements over 2013 with three games left.
Charles Johnson – Johnson is on a tear grading at +3.2, +3.9 and +4.3 (+11.4 total, first in NFL) the past three games. Most of that success has come in pass rushing (+7.8) while his 15.7 PRP is tops in the NFL in that time frame.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Demar Dotson – The right tackle is the best-graded offensive lineman for the Bucs at +5.6. His +9.8 pass block grade is second in the NFL among right tackles.
Mike Evans – Evans makes a lot of noise because of his double-digit TDs, but he has shown inconsistencies. His +8.9 grade primarily comes from recent efforts (Weeks 9, 10, and 11) while the rest of the season he is at just +0.1. His 2.18 Yards Per Route Run is 16th in the NFL.
Jonathon Banks and Alterraun Verner – Banks (-8.7) and Verner (+8.7) have drastically different grades, but Verner has fallen somewhere short of the shutdown corner status that may have been expected of him. Banks has seen rough times in each facet of play while Verner has been stout against the run (+7.4) and average in coverage (+0.3).
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