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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
December 7, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
CLE at CIN* OAK at NYJ SF at SEA MIA at SD* Mon 9 PM
IND at JAC TB at CAR BAL at DEN Updated* Times ET

Prediction: Tampa Bay 10, Carolina 20

This is the battle for the AFC South with the Panthers leading the Bucs by one game. A Carolina win and the division belongs to the Panthers. A Bucs win here ties the knot in the division and lets the Falcons still have a shot at the title as well. The Panthers already defeated the Bucs 34-14 in week nine when the game was in Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-4)
1 24-13 @MIN 10 36-35 WAS
2 19-3 BUF 11 30-27 @ATL
3 17-16 @GBP 12 10-13 CHI
4 17-13 DET 13 10-3 @NOR
5 12-14 @NYJ 14 Dec 11 @CAR
6 27-13 MIA 15 Dec 17 @NE
7 Open Bye 16 Dec 24 ATL
8 10-15 @SFO 17 Jan 1 NOR
9 14-34 CAR . . SAT
TBB at CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Chris Simms 0 0 190,1
RB Cadillac Williams 60 20 0
TE Alex Smith 0 30 0
WR Joey Galloway 0 70,1 0
WR Michael Clayton 0 30 0
WR Ike Hilliard 0 20 0
PK Todd France 1 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: Tampa Bay remains in title contention but it's all about the next three weeks to see if they can take the AFC South or end up at home for the playoffs. After this road game, the Bucs head off on their third straight away game to cold New England and then back home to host the Falcons that they have already beaten this year. More than anything - this is the most important game.

Quarterback: Chris Simms was hot for his first three weeks as a starter when he had five scores and never less than 259 passing yards in a game. In the three weeks since he has only one score and two efforts under 125 passing yards. The biggest concern here is that his worst games have all come on the road while his best efforts are at home. Some of the reduced passing numbers do stem from a return of the rushing game.

Simms threw for 259 yards and one score in the previous meeting with the Bucs in week nine.

Running Backs: Carnell Williams has now strung together three straight games with nice results rushing. He had 96 yards on 22 carries against the Saints and 84 yards on 20 runs against the Bears. Over the last three weeks, he is averaging almost five yards a carry and that includes facing the #1 defense of Chicago.

Carnell Williams only gained 29 yards on 11 carries in week nine against the Panthers when he was still mired in his stretch of bad games.

Wide Receivers: There are other wideouts besides Joey Galloway for the Buccaneers, it's just that no one knows why. Galloway has scored eight times this year with five games over 96 yards and there has only been two other scores by any other wideout on the team. Other than a couple of freak high games by Michael Clayton and Edell Shepherd, no other wideout usually has more than around 40 yards in a game outside of Galloway.

Galloway had 83 yards and one score against the Panthers this year.

Tight Ends: Alex Smith only has three catches for 13 yards combined from the last two games though he was on a three game run with over 40 yards prior to that. He has the tools to succeed, he just doesn't have the passes.

Match Against the Defense: The previous meeting between these teams was when Simms was only starting his second game and Cadillac was still sputtering. But that doesn't diminish the reality that the Panthers have only allowed one rushing score in the last five home games and no opposing runner has topped 75 yards in Carolina this year. There are no scheme changes to account for though the absence of LB Dan Morgan could matter here. Then again, it didn't really matter against the Falcons last week.

Simms goes against a secondary that held him to one score in week nine and it's not as if the Tampa Bay passing attack is any better or more diversified now than it was then. If anything, there is more game film out on Simms. There should be one passing score here and that always favors Galloway who was the only player to score against the Panthers in the previous game.

Matt Bryant missed last week with a sore hamstring and Todd France got the call. I will update if Bryant returns this week.

Carolina Panthers (9-3)
1 20-23 NOR 10 30-3 NYJ
2 27-17 NE 11 3-13 @CHI
3 24-27 @MIA 12 13-9 @BUF
4 32-29 GBP 13 24-6 ATL
5 24-20 @ARI 14 Dec 11 TBB
6 21-20 @DET 15 Dec 18 @NOR
7 Open Bye 16 Dec 24 DAL
8 38-13 MIN 17 Jan 1 @ATL
9 34-14 @TBB . MON SAT
CAR vs TB Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Delhomme 0 0 230,1
RB DeShaun Foster 70,1 20 0
TE Kris Mangum 0 10 0
WR Steve Smith 0 90,1 0
WR Keary Colbert 0 20 0
WR Rod Gardner 0 30 0
WR Ricky Proehl 0 40 0
PK John Kasay 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Panthers get their chance to claim the AFC South with a win here over a team they have already dominated this year. A win puts them two games up on the Buccaneers with three left to play and another matchup against the Saints next week alone could win the title. The final games against the Cowboys and Falcons could be tough, but a win this week pretty much could make them meaningless other than wanting homefield and a bye.

Quarterback: Jake Delhomme had been on a down turn for four straight games of fewer than 235 yards and no more than one score but buoyed by the rushing effort last week, Delhomme finished with 164 yards and yet two scores during the solid win over the Falcons. Whether that running game remains has yet to be seen but Delhomme remains good for at least one score in all but two games this season.

Delhomme threw for 216 yards and one score against the Bucs in week nine.

Running Backs: DeShaun Foster had his breakout game last week when he ran for 131 yards on 24 carries and scored once while adding a second score while catching three passes for 49 yards. The previous week had Foster only gaining 77 yards on 23 carries but those were the only games that allowed Foster enough carries to get on track this season. Stephen Davis has only managed fifteen carries for 36 yards over the last three games combined. He's done. Foster is just starting.

Davis gained 48 yards and scored twice in the previous meeting with the Bucs while Foster only had 23 yards on 16 carries.

Wide Receivers: The Steve Smith Report - Week 14. Smith scored once last week on seven catches for 65 yards and that totals ten scores on the season. He only has one 100 yard game in the last four weeks but his yardage still buries anything done by either Ricky Proehl, Rod Gardner or Keary Colbert.

Smith caught five passes for 106 yards and a score in the previous game against the Bucs.

Tight Ends: FORG_T TH_ TIGHT _NDS H_R_ (psst - buy an "E").

Match Against the Defense: The only notable difference in this game from the last one in Tampa Bay is that the Panthers are running better with Foster and this is in Carolina. Foster won't likely repeat his 100+ yard game from last week since that has only happened twice all year against the Bucs but he should manage moderate yardage here with a chance of a score.

Delhomme still has the same offensive players in the passing game (that being Steve Smith) but this is a big game that could be for all the NFC South marbles. Smith has had some of his best efforts of the year against the better defenses since other aspects of the offense diminish. Look for a solid game here from Smith as he had last time and the chance - as always - for a big one.