CHARLOTTE – The Panthers return to Charlotte for their second NFC South matchup and interim coach Steve Wilks' first home game since taking the job.
On deck is Tampa Bay (3-3), who will come to Bank of America Stadium for a 1 p.m. kickoff Sunday. This week, the Buccaneers hope to right the ship after a 20-18 loss to a struggling Pittsburgh squad in Week 6.
The Panthers carry a 24-19 all-time record against the Bucs, which includes a 12-10 record in home games. But Tampa Bay is 4-0 against the Panthers since Tom Brady joined the Bucs in 2020.
Carolina clinched its lone win of the season in a Week 3 divisional matchup against New Orleans at home. Tampa Bay comes into Week 7 tied with Atlanta atop the NFC South with a 2-0 record against division opponents to start the season.
Here's what to know about the Bucs:
OFFENSE LOOKS FOR IMPROVEMENT, EFFICIENCY
Tampa Bay's offense is still working to find itself, particularly up front. Brady is at the helm of a pass-heavy offense, as the Bucs' rush game has been nonexistent through the first six weeks.
The Bucs have the league's worst rushing offense, averaging 3.1 yards per attempt and 67.5 yards per game. Lead running back Leonard Fournette averages 57.2 yards per game on an average of 15.8 attempts with one touchdown. No other Tampa Bay rusher has tallied more than 47 yards on the season.
They have dealt with a cluster of injuries to the offensive line throughout the season, going on without center Ryan Jensen (knee), guard Aaron Stinnie (knee), and tackle Josh Wells (calf), all on injured reserve.
Tampa Bay is also looking to become a more efficient scoring team, finishing just 50 percent of its red zone trips in the end zone, ranked 21st alongside the Steelers and Cardinals. As a result, the Bucs are ranked 20th in scoring offense, averaging 20.2 points per game, and 25th in touchdowns, scoring 11 this season.
They're also not particularly efficient on third down, converting just 37.8 percent of their tries (31-of-82), which stands 22nd in the NFL.
DYNAMIC PASS CATCHERS FOR BRADY
Evans and Godwin head into Week 7 as top-25 receivers, with Evans' 71.6 yards per game and Godwin's 62.5-yard average at 17th and 25th in the league, respectively.
Evans' 14.9 average yards per catch rank him 15th in the NFL, and he has already brought in three touchdowns this season.
Fournette has totaled three receiving touchdowns on his own, hauling in 269 yards after the catch this season. That mark places the Bucs' running back at sixth in the league.
Tampa Bay has the sixth-best passing offense in the NFL – the best that the Panthers have faced to date – averaging 264.5 pass yards per game. Brady has completed 67.2 of his passes, good for fifth in the league, and thrown one interception, the fewest of quarterbacks who have started in at least four games this season.
HIGHS AND LOWS ON DEFENSE
The Bucs have defensive pros, like the fifth-best scoring defense (allowing 17.2 points per game), seventh-best total defense (302.5 yards per game), and seventh-best passing defense (193.3 yards per game).
They're elite pass rushers, too, tallying the third-most sacks in the league with 21 this year, behind the Cowboys and 49ers. Seven different Tampa Bay defenders have totaled at least two sacks this season, paced by linebacker Devin White and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. with three each.
But Tampa Bay's defense has seen some issues pop up through its last two matchups, including fourth-quarter letdowns. The first wasn't as critical, as the Bucs nearly completed a Week 5 shutout against the Falcons but allowed a 21-0 lead to turn 21-15 in the last 15 minutes.
The issue grew more serious at Pittsburgh, where Tampa Bay had held the Steelers to 140 yards of total offense through the first three quarters before giving up 130 yards in the fourth alone. The Steelers, headed up by Mitch Trubisky off the bench for an injured Kenny Pickett, converted three attempts from third-and-long (third-and-13, third-and-15, and third-and-11) across their final two series – a 71-yard touchdown drive to extend their lead and a four-minute push downfield to drain the game's last minutes off the clock.
The Bucs allow opponents to convert on third down 42.7 percent of the time, 22nd in the league. That mark is just ahead of the Panthers, who allow opponents to convert 43.2 percent of their attempts on third down.
Carolina is 25-19 all-time against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, posting a 13-10 record at home and 12-9 on the road.