C Ryan Kalil (Mary Ann Chastain/Getty)
The Carolina Panthers seek their first road win (and first divisional win) as they invade Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers. Panther Insider's MIchael Stolp sets the table for this contest by identifying three players -- one in each phase of the game -- who could tip the outcome in Carolina's favor.
Offense: Center Ryan Kalil
Let's face it, this Panthers offense is going to wind up being one of the worst offenses in NFL history. Not helping matters is the fact that they will dress three rookie QBs as they take on the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay on Sunday.
On an offense with a veteran quarterback, the center and signal caller usually work in tandem to communicate assignments to the rest of the unit prior to the snap. With the potential for all three inexperienced quarterbacks to see playing time, a bigger responsibility will be placed on the shoulders of Kalil.
There is only so much a center can do from the offensive line. He can't make throws or hit holes or catch passes, but Kalil will have to do everything in his power to get everyone on the same page. Merely getting off a successful snap -- something starter Jimmy Clausen has had problems with dating back to training camp -- becomes an extra worry.
The good news is this Bucs defense can be run on (they're giving up close to 5 yards per carry). The bad news is Mike Goodson is the last man standing in the backfield, as DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton will all sit with injuries.
Defense: Linebacker Nic Harris
When MLB Dan Connor left last week's game with a hip injury, Jon Beason moved from his weakside linebacker spot back to his original home in the middle. Nic Harris took Beason's spot on the weak side and figures to be there again on Sunday.
Harris, a safety at Oklahoma, is no doubt a step down from Beason, but his experience at safety should come in handy in pass coverage. Harris figures to see a lot of TE Kellen Winslow, as well as not-afraid-to-run QB Josh Freeman.
In a lost season on a team depleted by injuries, opportunities are provided to players like Harris to make names for themselves. With so much unknown about the future of this team, Harris needs to seize this chance to secure a roster spot under next year's new regime.
Special Teams: Coordinator Jeff Rodgers
Only five teams have punted more than the Panthers this season. Only four have returned more kickoffs. That will happen when your offense can't score and your defense is on the field too much.
This team will take a big play anyway it can get it; Rodgers tried just that when he called for a fake punt last week against the New Orleans Saints. The play succeeded as Jordan Senn rushed for a first down on a direct snap, but unfortunately, the offense could do nothing after that and had to punt again.
With nothing to lose, there is no reason why Rodgers shouldn't continue to get creative if for no other reason then to keep the Bucs on their heels.
Who will win the Panthers-Buccaneers game? Discuss in the message boards.
Michael Stolp is a graduate of Wilkes University with a degree in Communications. He grew up in Piscataway, N.J., and recently relocated to Charlotte, NC. To follow his personal blog, click here.