The Tampa Bay Buccaneers start off the new year at home against the Carolina Panthers looking to end the season on a high note
As a new year begins, the curtain falls on the once hopeful 2016 Buccaneers campaign. After getting red hot from weeks 10-14 and being in the drivers seat for the final wildcard playoff spot, the Bucs have sizzled and only a New Years day miracle can get them in. Looking at the season on an overall basis brings pleanty of hope for the future, but also leaves a sour taste in the mouth knowing what could have been.
Let's start 2017 off with a #BOOM!
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) January 1, 2017
This Sunday brings forth the second meeting between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers. The first game between these two was a sloppy meeting on Monday Night Football that ended when Roberto Aguayo kicked the game winning 38-yard field goal as time expired. Besides this previous meeting, the Panthers have been in charge in this series lately winning five out of the last six game against the Buccaneers.
Even with the Buccaneers playoff hopes being more far fetched than most resolutions being kept for the new year, this game is quite significant for Bucs. Last season, the Buccaneers found themselves in the playoff conversation after a 6-6 start heading into week 14. From there things went south as the Bucs, following a suspension to then rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander, proceeded to lose their last four game to close the season out with a 6-10 record. This season is beginning to have a eerily familiar vibe, and a win this Sunday against the Carolina Panthers the Buccaneers can at least take a win into the offseason, not to mention their first winning record since 2010.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 30, 2016
There are also some other important aspects to consider in this matchup. With Doug Martin serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and Charles Simms being placed on the IR, Jacquizz Rodgers will once again get the chance to show off his skills as a bell-cow back. A solid performance in this contest against the NFL’s 4th best rushing defense, could force the Bucs to consider releasing or trading Doug Martin in the offseason. Rodgers will become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2016 season, so the Bucs will have to make a decision regarding Martin fairly quickly in order to maintain the services of Jacquizz Rodgers.
Also be sure to keep an eye on Jameis Winston. With 267 yards against the Carolina Panthers, he set the all-time record, currently held by Andrew Luck, for most passing yards by a quarterback in their first two seasons. He also only needs just 112 yards to break 4,000 yards passing for the second straight season.
Mike Evans has a chance to break a record himself, albeit his own. He currently has eleven touchdown receptions on the season, one shy of the franchise record that he set during his rookie season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Carolina Panthers from Raymond James at 1PM on Sunday.
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