NFL in London: What to know when the Panthers face the Buccaneers
There is a huge NFC South matchup in London on Sunday as the 3-2 Carolina Panthers meet the 2-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
At the moment, the Panthers lead the overall series with a 23-15 record, but the Buccaneers defeated Carolina 20-14 earlier this season in Charlotte.
With help from our friends at Opta, we break down what to expect when the Panthers and Buccaneers visit Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Ron Rivera is in his ninth season as an NFL head coach — all with the Panthers. He has a 74-58-1 regular-season record.
KEEP £IN pic.twitter.com/57Y7LKXXUC— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) October 9, 2019
Kyle Allen has taken over the Panthers' offense since Cam Newton aggravated a foot injury at the beginning of the season.
The Panthers have won all three games Allen has started since, while the quarterback also led the team to a victory in 2018. The 23-year-old is one of two undrafted quarterbacks in NFL history to win their first four starts, with Super Bowl champion Kurt Warner being the first.
Allen also is one of four quarterbacks this season with five or more touchdowns and no interceptions. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota are the other three.
Undisputedly the best running back in the NFL at the moment, Christian McCaffrey has been unstoppable this season. The third-year tailback leads the NFL in carries (105), rushing yards (587) and touches (136) and is second in the league with seven total touchdowns, six of which have come on the ground.
"You always knew he had elite speed, and he was elusive, but now he's kind of figured it out," Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said of McCaffrey.
"Guys like that, I always say, he's not a running back, he's a weapon. He can do everything."
Tight end Greg Olsen has long been the backbone of the Panthers offense and, while his production isn't as dazzling as McCaffrey's, he's the leading receiver on the team. Olsen is sixth among active players in all-time receptions (864), ninth among active players in receiving yards (8,073) and ranks eighth in touchdown catches (59).
Interestingly, the last time Olsen had a game with over 100 receiving yards was in Week 2 - against the Buccaneers.
Luke Kuechly is the star of Carolina's defense. The linebacker leads the NFL with 56 tackles and is one of three players with 40 or more tackles and three or more passes defended.
In Week 4 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Kuechly recorded his 1,000th tackle. At age 28 and in his eighth season, he became the quickest player in NFL history to reach the milestone.
Complimenting Kuechly, outside linebacker Mario Addison has steadily climbed up the ranks as one of Carolina's top defensive players. Signed by the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2011, he joined the Panthers late in 2012 and is currently the only player in the league with six or more sacks in each of the past six seasons.
Addison and team-mate Brian Burns have at least 0.5 sacks in each of their last four games. Addison needs just one more in this upcoming game to tie the franchise record of 7.5 sacks in six appearances set by Julius Peppers in 2002.
Fun London fact: This will be the Panthers’ first game in London. They entered 2019 as one of three teams yet to play in England, with the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans being the other two.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Bruce Arians is in his first season with Buccaneers and seventh in the NFL. He holds a 51-33-1 overall record (2-3 record with Tampa Bay).
Fifth-year starter Jameis Winston had a rough start to the season after he threw for just one touchdown and three interceptions in Week 1. Since then, he's thrown for 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions. However, his kryptonite appears to be the Panthers since he has thrown nine career interceptions against them.
More encouragingly, four of those interceptions were in his first game against Carolina. Since then, Winston has had five interceptions in the teams' last seven meetings.
Receiver Mike Evans has long been the go-to man for Winston, though he's struggled a bit lately. He did not have a single catch last week, but there is a reason he is Tampa Bay's franchise leader in yards (6,471) and receiving touchdowns (44). In fact, Evans needs just 18 more catches to surpass the franchise record of 430.
On the other hand, Chris Godwin has emerged as an elite receiver. He is the first Buccaneers player in franchise history to have six receiving touchdowns in the opening five games of a season. He and Evans are the only pair of team-mates in the league with four or more touchdown catches this year.
Shaq Barrett signed a one-year contract with the Buccaneers in the offseason, but expect him to stick around for a while. The linebacker leads the NFL with nine sacks (two more than any other player) and is tied for fourth with 10 quarterback hits. He had three sacks and four quarterback hits in Week 2 against the Panthers.
Only two players since 1982 (when sacks became an official stat) have had more sacks through a team's first five games than Barrett, who had 14 sacks in his first five years combined with the Denver Broncos.
"The roles I was in my first four years, I think that was perfect for me. I wasn’t ready to be a consistent starter, but now I feel like I am ready now and everything is just working out," Barrett said.
Another defensive weapon who seems to thrive against the Panthers is linebacker Lavonte David, who has spent his entire six-year career with the Bucs. He is one of two players with 10 or more interceptions and 20 or more sacks since his 2012 rookie year.
David also has 6.5 sacks in 15 games against the Panthers, four more than he has against any other team.
Fun London fact: This is Tampa Bay’s third game in London and their first since a 24-18 loss to the Bears in 2011. The Buccaneers are the only team to have played multiple games in London and have yet to win.