Bucs (0-1) at Panthers (0-1)
TV: NFL, 8:25 p.m.
Line; Panthers by 7; O/U: 49
Week 2 features four 0-1 vs. 0-1 matchups, starting with this NFC South battle. No team wants to start 0-2, but it's especially worse when both those games are at home, so expect Carolina to be the more desperate team (take notes, Jets).
The Panthers lost their opener, 30-27, to the Rams, a game in which they were their own worst enemy with costly turnovers. The Bucs lost, 31-17, at home to the 49ers, the difference a pair of Jameis Winston pick-6's. Winston threw three interceptions, and with this matchup being more difficult at Carolina, it's hard to have confidence in the streaky quarterback.
The Panthers lead the all-time series, 23-14, and beat Tampa Bay by 14 last year in Carolina. Cam Newton is 9-4 all-time vs. Tampa Bay, his most wins against one opponent. Even though his record on Thursdays (3-5) and prime time (8-10) are lacking, it's his success at home (39-23) that has me confident he will lead a motivated Panthers effort against an inferior opponent. The Bucs won't be able to stop speedy back Christian McCaffrey, either.
Carolina also has the Gerald McCoy Revenge Game working in its favor. The Panthers defensive tackle spent his first nine years with the Bucs, and you have to think there will be a little extra motivation for him and his new teammates to beat his old club.
The Panthers are clearly the better team, and the only worry in backing them is if the Bucs walk in through the backdoor late for a cover. Newton & Co. should control this game and Winston figures to have another tough go, leaving coach Bruce Arians to wonder why he unretired.
The pick: Panthers
Bob Glauber: Panthers
Tom Rock: Panthers
Al Iannazzone: Panthers