In honor of Lisa Guerrero's Playboy shoot, I'm going with a Monday Night Football Edition of the Best Bucs gameday preview. As always, I will use stats from Football Outsiders. For a more detailed explanation of FO's stats go here.
Offense. Defense. Special Teams.
Buc's offense vs. Panther's defense
DVOA . . . . Buc's offense . . . . vs. Panther's defense
Rushing . . . -12.8% (#23) . . . . . . -20.3% (#4)
Passing . . . . 1.6% (#17) . . . . . . . . -14.7% (#6)
No doubt, Gruden and company have learned from their last encounter with the Panthers' defense. Gruden will use a tightend to help out Kenyatta Walker against Julius Peppers. In fact, considering how talented the Panther's front seven are, I wouldn't be surprised to see Gruden using max protect on passing downs.
And on a completely random note, tip of the hat to ABC for the Monday Night Football intros. Caught the one with Ray Romano and Lance Armstrong (last week?) and it got a chuckle out of me. Of course, thats does not excuse the country songs or any time Madden opens his mouth.
Panther's offense vs. Buc's defense
DVOA . . . . Panther's offense . . . . . vs. Buc's defense
Rushing . . . -22.4% (#29) . . . . . . . . . . -19.5% (#5)
Passing . . . . 11.3% (#12) . . . . . . . . . . . -5.8% (#14)
Ok, you caught me, this isn't so much a Monday Nigth Football edition of the preview as it is an excuse to post pictures of Lisa Guerrero. Anyway . . .
The Panther's rushing game is horrendous, whihc seems to be counter intuitive. The Panther's have a deep runningback corp headlined by Stephen Davis and DaShaun Foster. But neither back has been dominating this season (and I don't count what Foster did against Atlanta's pourous rush defense).
Which means Carolina will likely be forced to pass the ball early, which is where, statistically, Carolina holds an advantage. But if the Bucs can shut down Steve Smith (easier said than done) then Tampa Bay may be able to slow Carolina's offense. As I pointed out before, Jake Delhomme completes 69% of his passes when throwing to Smith, but only 55% when throwing to other receivers.
Shifting gears, as has been announced this is the last season for Monday Night Football before it shifts over to ESPN. The big change is that NBC will broadcast Sunday night games, which will become the week's premier game. This change was made so NBC could switch potential duds of games (i.e. Atlanta vs. New Orleans) with more promising matchups (Carolina vs. Tampa Bay). Of course, if you've seen this week's Inside the NFL you already knew all this.