Bucs set for Panthers fight

With Thanksgiving madness out the way the NFL can now get into the playoff spirit for week 14.

Unfortunately Thursday’s Oakland-San Diego match had nothing to contribute playoff wise. The game was one for respect.

But Sunday will see a much different picture starting with Jacksonville-Chicago. The Bears have a chance (and a decent defense) to claim their division but they can’t let the Jags to run them down.

Minnesota meanwhile is in a bind with the recent suspensions of key linemen. Their run game should be enough to overwhelm Detroit and get them closer to the NFC North crown but the Lions are primed for an upset.

Houston’s win on Monday night gave some credence to their offense. The reeling Packers better take note of Johnson and Slaton because if they each get touchdowns the Texans could get the upset.

Indy all of a sudden is alive and well in the AFC playoff picture. The offense has improved but their defense is what’s turning things around. Sanders and company should star against the woeful Bengals.

Michael Turner has literally run the Falcons into playoff contention in the NFC and the Saints porous D will see that first-hand. The question here will be if New Orleans can overwhelm Atlanta’s secondary through the air.

Philly is an inconsistent club that has smothering defense on occasion. Meanwhile New York brings the pass rush every week. The team that can limit the other club’s offense for four quarters and make the most tackles should win.

Tennessee looms large on the field because of a stout pass rush. But the running of rookie Johnson and the passing of Collins has been the key. The Browns only chance is to give the Titans’ secondary pressure down field.

The Bills and Dolphins are in a dog-fight out in the AFC East. The division might be out of reach but a wildcard spot is for the taking. The key to their game will be whoever builds up the most passing yards.

Denver-Kansas City has little effect on the standings as the Broncos’ pass attack has all but assured a playoff spot. The only way they can lose here is if the Chiefs show something on special teams.

In spite of a shocking loss to Denver, New York is a solid team. Favre and Coles have been a deadly duo and should feature heavily against the Niners. The key for the Jets though will be defense and their ability to stop the run.

Seattle can’t do much right on offense these days. Hasselbeck, Jones and Branch have been far from expected. The Patriots meanwhile will welcome the chance to rest a battered defense. Look for a bounce-back game from Cassel and Moss.

Arizona is a sketchy team on defense and the secondary still has to impress. But Warner and his band of receivers are more than enough to give fits. The Rams defense is shoddy but can muster some surprises on offense. They can win if Arizona loses focus.

Pittsburgh is riding high after thrashing the Patriots. Harrison and Farrior were a crushing duo on defense. They will be put to the test again with a desperate Cowboys team riding their new-found love for the deep ball into town.

A loss for the Cowboys will almost certainly ensure that they will be on the sidelines when January comes around while a Steelers win will give them a nice playoff position.

Washington-Baltimore is a match-up that will centre on defense. Reed and Lewis are part of an aggressive defensive front for the Ravens. Meanwhile Hall and Landry are part of an underappreciated Redskins defense. The key though will be the run game and whoever can get the most yards.

Yet those games will pale in comparison to Monday’s power tussle between NFC South frontrunners Tampa Bay and Carolina.

Both sides measure up well with the run game and on defense. Brooks and company are great at the pass rush and they are no slouch stopping the run. Meanwhile Williams and Stewart are running linebackers ragged.

The key though will be the passing attack and whether Tampa’s Garcia overcomes Carolina’s duo of Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith.