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Underrated pass protection
The Bucs' pass protection and blitz pickup is underrated. The offensive line is smart, with the ability to slide or adjust, and the running backs -- especially Warrick Dunn -- do an excellent job of reading the blitz, stepping up and filling. However, the line must figure out how to block Panthers RDE Julius Peppers, who is a terrific edge-rusher. LT Donald Penn will not be able to block him without help. The Panthers do not blitz a lot, so in most cases the Bucs will have to block only the front four, but if they do blitz, the offensive line and backs must be ready.
• One defender Packers count on
• Bears have edge in the red zone
Pound the rock
The Panthers must run the ball a lot and control the clock against the Bucs' Cover 2. When these teams met in Week 6, Carolina threw the ball 39 times in a blowout loss, which is too many against a defense with tight throwing windows. QB Jake Delhomme cannot win this game by passing, and if he is forced to put the ball in the air a lot, it will lead to turnovers and game-changing defensive plays. The Panthers should run the ball 65 percent of the time.
Gary Horton, a pro scout for Scouts Inc., has been a football talent evaluator for more than 30 years. He spent 10 years in the NFL and 10 years at the college level before launching a private scouting firm, The War Room.