This isn't the Week 8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – the team that suffered its eighth consecutive loss of the season against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football.
These Tampa Bay Buccaneers are riding a three-game winning streak as they travel to Bank of America Stadium for Week 13.
"They are just playing ball and playing darn good ball," wide receiver Steve Smith said. "This is going to be another big test for us. They are not going to walk in here and play dead. They are going to be very, very excited and ready to play."
Added safety Mike Mitchell: "They've turned that corner, and it looks like they've found that winning formula."
For the first time since 1996, both teams enter this matchup boasting at least a three-game winning streak. Carolina tied a franchise record set in 1996 by winning its seventh consecutive game last week in Miami.
Here's what to watch as these NFC South rivals look to keep their respective streaks alive.
GLENNON GROWING: Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon was making his fourth career start when the Panthers visited Tampa Bay on October 24.
The rookie from North Carolina State has made four starts since, and his improved play is one of the biggest reasons for Tampa Bay's turnaround.
"Honestly, when I look at it, that's really what it is," Mitchell said. "(Glennon) has stepped his game up."
In his last four outings, Glennon has thrown seven touchdowns and one interception. His quarterback rating has been more than 100 in three of those four games.
Glennon completed 31-of-50 passes for 275 yards and a late touchdown in the 31-13 loss to Carolina earlier in the year, and the Panthers will aim to disrupt the momentum the rookie signal caller has developed.
READY FOR DEEP BALLS: In the copycat league that is the NFL, the Carolina defensive backfield fully expects Glennon and the Tampa Bay offense to try some deep shots after Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace's big day last week.
"There were a couple plays that we are going to get corrected," Mitchell said. "You experience it, you learn from it and you get better. We learn from those things, and they won't happen again."
Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson will no doubt look to duplicate Wallace's success, and Glennon has the arm to test Carolina's secondary over the top.
PICKING UP TEMPO: After experiencing success with the no-huddle offense in consecutive weeks, the Panthers may use an up-tempo attack more often.
"There are certain periods in a game that, yes, we'll look at it," head coach Ron Rivera said. "A lot of it is going to depend on how (offensive coordinator) Mike Shula feels."
Shula and Rivera feel great about quarterback Cam Newton's ability to handle those no-huddle situations. Newton has engineered game-winning drives in the fourth quarter in three consecutive games and he's earned the trust of the coaches to call plays at the line of scrimmage.
RUN GAME RESURGENCE?: For weeks, we've been waiting to see Carolina's backfield hit its stride.
After struggling to find consistent room to run against Dolphins, the Panthers now will line up against the league's ninth toughest rushing defense.
But there is some reason for optimism in this matchup. Running backs DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert each averaged more than five yards per carry against the Buccaneers in Week 8 and both backs found the end zone. Additionally, running back Jonathan Stewart did not play in the first meeting as he had not yet been activated from the physically unable to perform list.
Unfortunately for Carolina, the backfield may not be at full strength. Rivera is concerned about Williams' status for Sunday due to a quad contusion. Stewart and Tolbert are listed questionable but are expected to play.
|Panthers in the Park||
Located at Romare Bearden Park in Third Ward between Church Street and Mint Street and open from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Free, interactive area offers fun for the entire family with appearances by the TopCats, Sir Purr and PurrCussion and the Fuel Up to Play 60 Kids Combine, which includes activities like the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, wide receiver/quarterback challenge, TopCats dance studio and inflatable obstacle course. Try fun football challenges and free milk samples from the Southeast Dairy Association. Learn about protecting your home from CPI Security. Find out about the Red Cross at the community partner booth.
Located on the corner of Mint Street and Morehead Street and open from 10:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., with TopCats signing autographs and posing for photos at the 107.9 The Link booth from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., Sir Purr appearing throughout the morning and PurrCussion performing at 11:15 a.m. Discover a wide range of services, charge your phone, take the "It Can Wait Pledge" and register to win prizes at the AT&T Connection Zone. Visit State Farm Insurance for games, contests and giveaways. Get information about the U.S. Marine Corps. Stop by one of Charlotte's best food trucks at Queen City Q. Area also features a DJ and offers food and drink sales.
|Invocation||Rev. Eric Miller - Ascension Lutheran Church, Charlotte, N.C.|
|Charlotte Fire Department|
|National Anthem||Kristy Cates|
|Halftime||Darryl "DMC" McDaniels musical performance|
BAG POLICY: The National Football League bag policy designed to enhance safety will be strictly enforced on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium. Under the policy, approved bags must meet the following criteria:
• Small clutch purse no larger than 4.5" x 6.5"
• Any transparent plastic or vinyl bag no larger than 12" x 6" x 12"
• Seat pad that does not contain zippers, clasps, etc., and is not encased in vinyl.
The Panthers will provide a clear, plastic gallon size bag to fans who bring non-compliant bags to the stadium. Fans may obtain a bag at one of five tent locations: near the practice field, Graham Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, corner of Mint Street and Stonewall Street, corner of Morehead Street and Mint Street, or near the Morehead Street entrance to the stadium.
The North and East gates of Bank of America Stadium have been renovated to provide improved access with additional screening points of entry. For the most efficient, effective and quickest entry into the stadium, officials recommend the following:
• Arrive at the stadium gates 30 minutes earlier than you have in the past.
• Refrain from bringing items that require a bag check.
Review the complete list of prohibited items and bag policy.