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NFL London Games: Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Prediction and Preview

NFL London Games: Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Prediction and Preview

NFL London Games: Panthers vs. Buccaneers Prediction and Preview

For the second time in the last month, the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will square off against each other — this time across the Atlantic Ocean in London this Sunday.

In Week 2, the Buccaneers came away with a surprising 20-14 victory in Charlotte to get their first win of the season. Since then, the Buccaneers have lost two out of their last three games.

On the flip side, after starting the season 0-2, the Panthers have won their last three games, including a 34-27 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars last weekend. Now, the Panthers will have an opportunity to get to two games over .500 before their bye week.

Carolina leads the all-time series over Tampa Bay 23-15.

Carolina vs. Tampa Bay

Kickoff: Oct. 13 at 9: 30 p.m. ET

Where: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (London)

TV: NFL Network

Spread: Carolina-2.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Kyle Allen

The most significant difference from when the Panthers and Buccaneers last met is the man at quarterback for Carolina. Allen has started and won the last three games after the Panthers decided to let Cam Newton rest his foot injury. There has been some good and bad with Allen as the Panthers' starter.

The good: Allen hasn't thrown an interception yet this year, as he has amassed 674 passing yards and five touchdowns. The bad: Allen's fumbling issues. He has fumbled the ball six times in his three starts (seven if people want to count the one negated by a defensive penalty against Jacksonville last week).

With Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett leading the NFL in sacks with nine, ball security is vital in a critical division game. If Allen can limit the turnovers, the Panthers should at least be in the game throughout.

2. Jameis Winston

After throwing three interceptions in the Buccaneers' Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Winston has played like one of the best quarterbacks in the league. In the last four weeks, Winston has thrown for 1,177 yards and 10 touchdowns, with only two interceptions.

Even in a small sample size, it is apparent that Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians has had a positive impact on Winston's play. Instead of making ill-advised decisions, Winston has done a better job of taking care of the football, as shown by his 63 percent completion percentage during the last four games.

The success of the Buccaneers offense will come down to Winston and his mistakes or lack thereof.

3. Christian McCaffrey

Five weeks into the season, McCaffrey is making a case to win the 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award, as well as the MVP award depending on how the Panthers finish the season. McCaffrey leads the league in rushing yards with 587 and has scored six touchdowns on the ground. He also has caught 31 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown.

With Newton out, the Panthers offense has revolved around McCaffrey. It goes without saying: If the Buccaneers can contain McCaffrey, they will have an excellent chance to win on Sunday.

In their meeting last month, McCaffrey was held to 37 rushing yards on 16 carries. Expect Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to have a similar gameplan, as he will try to force Allen to beat Tampa Bay with his arm.

Final Analysis

As the bye week looms for both teams, Sunday's game is critical, as the New Orleans Saints have an edge on the NFC South. Carolina can remain one game behind New Orleans or even be tied for the divisional lead by the end of the day. Tampa Bay would like to get to 3-3 and have the series edge over Carolina.

NFL Power Rankings: Buccaneers

The game will come down to how well the Panthers offensive line can protect Allen, and whether McCaffrey can have a big game. If the Panthers are forced to throw the ball 51 times as they did in their previous loss to the Buccaneers, they will likely be on the losing end.

Getting cornerback Donte Jackson back is huge for the Panthers because Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are two of the best receivers in the NFL. Look Tampa Bay to also get its running game going, much as it did in Week 2 when Peyton Barber rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 31, Carolina 23

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.