WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Panthers QB Cam Newton
- Needs eight yards to pass Peyton Manning (21,174) for most combined yards in a player’s first five seasons.
- Needs three touchdowns to catch Steve Beuerlein (36, 1999) for most passing touchdowns in a Panthers’ season.
- Needs five touchdowns to catch Jake Delhomme (120) for most passing touchdowns in Panthers’ history.
- Needs two rushing attempts to pass his single-season career high (127, 2012).
Panthers RB Brandon Wegher will be the deep man on kickoff returns. The undrafted rookie hasn’t returned a kickoff since he was a freshman at Iowa in the 2010 Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech.
The Panthers could become the seventh team in NFL history to win 15 games in the regular season.
The Panthers have scored 127 points off turnovers, one shy of the team record set in 2005. Carolina has outscored opponents off turnovers 127-29, converting 36 takeaways into 14 touchdowns and 10 field goals.
The Panthers have won a league-best nine straight regular-season home games.
Last week’s loss snapped Carolina’s 10-game December win streak. Coach Ron Rivera is 18-4 in December, tied with Seattle’s Pete Carroll for best record in the month since 2011.
The Panthers have rushed for at least 100 yards in 26 straight games. The last team to hit the century mark in as many games was the ’74-’77 Pittsburgh Steelers, who did it 43 times.
THIRD DOWN WOES
Newton hasn’t completed a third down pass since the third quarter of Week 15. Newton has gone 0-for-9 on third downs after he connected with Ted Ginn on 3rd-and-goal from 14 to give the Panthers’ a 35-7 lead against the Giants.
The Panthers allowed the Giants and Falcons to combine for a 50 percent (15-of-30) conversion rate on third down.
MORE FROM THE PAST TWO WEEKS
- Allowed the Giants and Falcons to average 389.5 yards. Carolina had allowed an average of 240.4 yards in its previous five games.
- Totaled two sacks against the Giants (0) and Falcons (2). Carolina had averaged 3.1 sacks per game through its first 13 games.
ODD PATTERN HEADING INTO WEEK 17
Newton was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Weeks 9, 11, 13 and 15.
WR Devin Funchess caught touchdown passes in Week 9, 11, 13 and 15.
The Panthers have won their past five meetings with the Bucs, tying their longest streak in the series (2003-05).
Ron Rivera is 3-2 against his former boss Lovie Smith. Rivera’s won all three matchups since Smith’s been in Tampa Bay.
MORE NOTABLE NUGGETS
The Panthers will likely be without WR Ted Ginn (knee), RB Jonathan Stewart (foot), Fozzy Whittaker (ankle) and Kurt Coleman (foot). Those four have combined to score 35 percent of Carolina’s touchdowns this year.
The Panthers have scored 462 points, a team record for most in a season. The previous mark was 421 in 1999.
The Panthers went into Week 16 averaging 3.8 touchdowns per games. They scored a season-low one touchdown against Falcons.
Panthers DT Kawann Short has 11 sacks, just 5.5 fewer than the combined total of Panthers’ DEs this season.
Panthers DE Ryan Delaire has nine tackles and 2.5 sacks in nine games this season. Eight of those tackles and all of those sacks came against teams he previously played for (Bucs, Redskins).
Rivera has challenged a league-high 13 times this season. He’s won nine of those 13 challenges.
Bucs RB Doug Martin leads the NFL with 610 yards after contact.
The Bucs have 19 runs of at least 20 yards, tied with Buffalo for most in the league.
The Bucs have allowed 40 plays of 20 or more yards, tied with Denver for fewest in the league.