Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C., (grass, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Spread: Broncos by 4
Forecast: Cloudy and windy; projected kickoff temperature: mid-50s.
Records: Buccaneers (Overall: 5-4, NFC South: 1-1); Panthers (Overall: 2-7, NFC South: 1-2)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Sept. 9, 2012: Buccaneers 16, Panthers 10; Dec. 24, 2011: Panthers 48, Buccaneers 16. Series record: Panthers hold a 14-10 edge.
What matters: The Panthers’ disappointing season claimed another victim this week. Carolina dismissed special teams coach Brian Murphy on Monday, three weeks after general manager Marty Hurney was fired. The Week 1 loss in Tampa started the Panthers off on the wrong foot. They’ll try again to right the ship against a Bucs team that’s pushing for a playoff berth under first-year coach Greg Schiano.
Who matters: WR Steve Smith had a rough game against Denver last week. He had just one catch for 19 yards after being targeted seven times. QB Cam Newton overthrew him repeatedly, and Smith was the only starter pulled late in the game after the score got out of hand. Tampa QB Josh Freeman has improved throughout the season. He has 13 touchdown passes and a 113.9 passer rating in the last five games.
Key matchup: Tampa DE Michael Bennett against the right side of the Panthers line. Bennett leads the Bucs with six sacks, and he’ll be facing an offensive line that allowed Newton to get sacked seven times last week. RT Byron Bell spent several series on the bench, and RG Jeff Byers could lose his job to newly signed Jeremy Bridges.
Injuries of note: Panthers DE Antwan Applewhite (hamstring) hasn’t practiced and may miss another game. KR Armanti Edwards missed practice with an injured groin, which might open the door for rookie Joe Adams to get another shot at returning kicks. For Tampa, CB Eric Wright left last week’s game with an Achilles injury and has missed practice for personal reasons. G Jamon Meredith hurt his ankle in practice on Wednesday and missed Thursday’s practice.
Inside stuff: Tampa Bay has the best run defense in the NFL. QB Robert Griffin III rushed for 36 yards against the Bucs in Week 4. Opposing quarterbacks combined for just 35 rushing yards against Tampa in the other eight games, including Newton’s four yards on five rushes in Week 1.
Stat you should know: The Bucs haven’t had a four-game winning streak since November, 2008.
Record watch: With 73 yards receiving, Smith will reach 11,000 for his career.
Bulletin board quote: “I don’t think your confidence level can ever go down when you’re the No. 1 pick in the draft.” -- Bennett on Newton.
Looking ahead: The Panthers have back-to-back road games against Philadelphia and Kansas City. As bad as the season has gone, there’s a good chance that they’ll be 5-7 after that stretch. The Bucs host Atlanta and travel to Denver and could also be 5-7 afterward.
Prediction: Panthers 24, Buccaneers 17
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Carolina Panthers from blogger Shawn Krest, follow @CBSPanthers.