The Carolina Panthers 2012 season has been a painful reminder that this franchise is far from contending for a Super Bowl. Fans aspirations were mistakenly set too high after a promising rookie season from quarterback Cam Newton.

Though he only managed six wins in his first year, Newton showed at times that he was capable of competing with the best in the league. His exciting play making abilities were something Panther fans had never experienced from their quarterback.

Like a one night stand, Cam Newton’s rookie year was here and gone in a flash. After witnessing his play through nine games this season, it’s hard to say whether this guy’s game will ever come to fruition. It’s time to face the facts for Panther fans, who know at this point there’s little chance at reaching the playoffs.

Looking forward to next season has become the trend for the Carolina Panthers. If one positive can be made from all this, it’s the fact that the Panthers will continue to get favorable draft picks. In time they may develop a winning team as long as the right choices are made. Until then changes will continue to take place within the organization. The firing of general manager Marty Hurney and special teams coordinator Brian Murphy are just a few of the minor steps the Panthers felt they needed to take in order to get the franchise back on track. A winning brand of football is the ultimate goal, and in order to reach it they may to clean house before the years end.

This Sunday the (5-4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Charlotte to take on the (2-7) Carolina Panthers. Tampa Bay is riding high off a three game winning streak, and will be looking to extend it to four games for the first time since 2008 where they pulled off a perfect record in November. Their playoff hopes are very much alive, and first year head Coach Greg Schiano believes his team is ready to take the next step.

During the current win streak, the Bucs are averaging a whopping 37.3 points per game on offense, while also getting solid play from their special teams and defense. Schiano was pleased of his team’s performance after reeling off a big win at home last Sunday against Phillip Rivers and the Chargers.

"Today we played team football. We held each other up, and it is critical against a good football team," Schiano said. "We ran into Philip Rivers, he's been as hot as a fire cracker the last two games. We did just enough to find a win. It's a good feeling." – (Sports Network)

Tamp Bay will need to avoid a letdown this week against a struggling Carolina Panthers team. They were able to hold off the Panthers 16-10 in week one, and know it won’t be so easy the second time around. In that first meeting the Buccaneers were able to slow down Cam Newton and the rushing attack, allowing just 10 total yards on the ground, something that the Panthers will need to fix if they have any chance of hanging with the high powered Buccaneers this Sunday.

Though the Panthers sport a 7-5 record at home against the Bucs, they are aware of the disadvantages they face against a well-rounded Tampa Bay team. The Buccaneers have a leg up in the running game and special teams play; something the Panthers have struggled to with this season. If Tampa Bay fails to find a run game early, then look for quarterback Josh Freeman and wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams to make big plays through the air. That won’t be easy for Freeman, who will be pressured heavily by a Panthers defense that ranks 9th in the league in total team sacks.

Tampa Bay is set to be the favorite in this matchup despite the Panthers 14-10 lead in the all-time series. In what has historically been an even matchup, I expect a close game with plenty of offense. In the end the Buccaneers should pull away as Cam Newton and the Panthers fall short again at home.

Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28, Carolina Panthers 25