NFL Week 8 Preview: Panthers at Buccaneers
The Carolina Panthers visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8 of the 2017 NFL season. PFF previews the top player matchups of the game.
Coverage by: Mike Manning
Matchup: Carolina Panthers offense vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense
- RB Christian McCaffrey vs. LB Lavonte David – McCaffrey has been targeted 57 times so far this season, more than any other Panthers player and eighth-most by any skill position player in the NFL. But he has only been on the field for 13.6 percent of the Panther’s rushing snaps this season. McCaffrey’s 90.2 receiving grade is second-highest in the league while his 46.2 rushing grade is the third-lowest by a qualifying running back. The rookie’s 1.69 yards after contact per attempt is the lowest in the league by a running back with at least 40 touches. David is one of only three linebackers to earn an elite grade of over 90 this season, with the highest run-defense grade (92.1) and second-highest coverage grade (87.6) at the position. The Buccaneers linebacker has only allowed 0.50 yards per coverage snaps but has missed five tackles in coverage this season.
- WR Kelvin Benjamin vs. Bucs outside cornerbacks – Since Week 3, Benjamin has been out targeted by Funchess 42-31. While Benjamin has been dealing with a lingering knee injury since Week 3, he has still seen an increase in snap percentage each week the past three weeks. However, his 49.3 passer rating when targeted in Week 7 was the second-lowest of the season for Benjamin. In the two games last season Benjamin faced the Buccaneers, he earned a passer rating of 96.9 when targeted overall, but that dropped to 47.9 when he was covered by Bucs CB Brent Grimes, who unfortunately for Bucs fans will miss this game. Vernon Hargreaves will switch back outside and Robert McClain will start opposite. Hargreaves shifted to the nickel cornerback spot last week in Buffalo and did not allow a catch on four targets while McClain has allowed 21-of-27 targets to be caught this season for 219 yards and a 97.4 passer rating when targeted.
- G Trai Turner vs. DI Gerald McCoy – Turner has not allowed a sack yet this season, but his 15 total pressures allowed are tied for the ninth-most by a guard this season. Although eight of those 15 pressures came in the Week 6 game against the Eagles. His 47.0 pass-blocking grade in 2017 ranks 53rd among guards. While 56 percent of the pressures Turner has allowed this season have come by bullrush, McCoy has only recorded 12 percent of his pressures by bullrush. But McCoy’s 25 pressures are the third-highest by a defensive tackle so if Turner can help keep Cam Newton upright, it’ll help the Panther’s offense get back on track.
Coverage by: Bill O’Brien
Matchup: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense vs. Carolina Panthers Defense
- QB Jameis Winston vs. CBs Daryl Worley and James Bradberry – Quarterback Jameis Winston will look to lead the Buccaneers back to their winning ways this weekend as they square off against the division rival Panthers. At Winston’s disposal are wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans, who currently rank eighth and tenth in overall grade among receivers with grades of 83.6 and 83.3 respectively. Winston will look to expose matchups on the outside against Panthers’ cornerbacks James Bradberry and Daryl Worley. Bradberry has been an effective corner so far this season (75.6), while Worley has struggled a bit and has earned an overall grade of 45.9.
- RB Doug Martin vs. LB Luke Kuechly – The running game has been an area of concern for the Buccaneers’ offense so far this season and while halfback Doug Martin has only played in three games, he has yet to get going this season. One area that Martin has struggled is forcing defenders to miss him when attempting to tackle him. Currently, Martin ranks 32nd out of 46 qualified halfbacks in elusive rating with a rate of 30.3. This week will not be any easier as the Panthers will counter with linebacker Luke Kuechly. Kuechly is in line to return this weekend after missing Week 7 with a concussion. Through six games so far this season, Kuechly ranks sixth among 100 qualified linebackers in overall grade as he has earned an overall grade of 85.6.
- T Demar Dotson vs. Edge Julius Peppers – Julius Peppers has proven to still be an effective pass-rusher in his 16th season in the NFL. Peppers has earned a pass-rush productivity rating of 12.0, which ranks 18th among 109 qualified edge defenders. Now in his second stint as a member of the Panthers, Peppers rushes mostly from the defense’s left side, which means he will lined up mostly against Buccaneers’ right tackle Demar Dotson. Dotson poses one of the biggest challenges that Peppers will face all season as Dotson has been an effective pass blocker. So far this season, Dotson has earned the highest pass-blocking efficiency rating of any offensive tackle with a rating of 98.2.