When the Panthers first looked at the “Monday Night Football” game against the Buccaneers on the calendar, they probably didn’t do so expecting it to be a “must-win” situation without their starting quarterback. But here they are, heading into Monday night’s divisional showdown with the Bucs, sitting at 1-3 and facing the likelihood of Cam Newton missing the game.The Charlotte Observer reports Newton, along with multiple starters, will miss Monday night’s game after suffering a concussion against the Falcons in Week 3’s loss in Atlanta. Left tackle Michael Oher will probably miss the game as well, also dealing with a concussion.Carolina’s losses aren’t all terrible: the Vikings and Broncos both look like fantastic football teams and potentially the top-two defenses in the NFL. The Falcons’offense is for real, although giving up 500 yards to Matt Ryan and 300 yards to Julio Jones is sub-optimal.The Panthers secondary will get another similarly strong test Monday, with second-year quarterback Jameis Winston and third-year wideout Mike Evans capable of lighting up a scoreboard with the deep ball.Keys to the gameThe answer to the question of what is wrong with the Panthers begins with their defense. It is debatable how direct of an effect the loss of All-Pro CB Josh Norman is making, but the fact is Carolina isn’t generating consistent pressure and the overwhelmed coverage unit is getting torched. That includes allowing 78 percent completions over the past six quarters. Winston continues to struggle with turnovers as he has eight touchdown passes to go with his eight interceptions, but he also has a super-sized receiving corps that will stress Carolina’s secondary. He may not replicate the 503 yards Atlanta’s Ryan dropped on the Panthers last week, but Winston must exploit Carolina’s glaring weakness, especially with Doug Martin likely to be sidelined again by a hamstring injury.The Panthers will probably be without Newton, who remains in the concussion protocol, but backup Derek Anderson is plenty familiar with Tampa Bay, having led Carolina to a pair of victories over the Bucs in 2014. The Panthers have had their own issues with a sputtering ground game with Jonathan Stewart also missing the past two games due to a hamstring injury. With his status highly uncertain, Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker would again combine to replace Stewart if he is unable to go. Tampa Bay ranks 31st in points allowed, but has held opponents to an average of 3.3 yards per carry. The main problem has been the lack of turnovers as the Bucs enter minus-9 in that department. Carolina desperately wants to get its power ground game back untracked as the passing game is clearly not ready to shoulder the load.Matchups to watchâ¢ Panthers CB James Bradberry vs. Bucs WR Mike Evans. Bradberry, a rookie out of Samford, has been a popular target for opposing quarterbacks in the post-Norman era. And here comes another big challenge, literally, in the 6-5, 231-pound Evans, who leads the Bucs with 26 catches for 360 yards and three touchdowns. Norman limited Evans to nine catches on 25 targets for 144 yards in three meetings.â¢ Panthers TE Greg Olsen vs. Bucs LB Kwon Alexander. Olsen leads NFL tight ends with 335 receiving yards and has had a ton of success against Tampa in his career. However, Alexander leads the Bucs with 38 tackles and in two games last season, Alexander and company limited Olsen to just a pair of receptions in each contest.Player spotlightBucs TE Cameron Brate As Austin Seferian-Jenkins slid down the depth chart and then off the roster following a DUI, Brate has quietly emerged as a reliable target for Winston. He is third on the team with 16 catches for 159 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including 10-113-2 combined over the past two weeks.Fast factsTampa Bay’s Gerald McCoy leads all NFL defensive tackles with 28 sacks since 2012. … Panthers QB Derek Anderson completed 49 of 74 passes for 507 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in leading two victories over Tampa Bay in Cam Newton’s place in 2014.The Sports XChange and Reuters contributed to this report.
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