Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/18/14
It may not be a storybook matchup, but with one of the most athletic quarterbacks in NFL history determined to guide his overachieving band of Carolina Panthers against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad too busy trying to desperately stave off the ill effects of an MRSA outbreak to do anything else, it may well be the next best thing. Are there NFL odds for weirdest Thursday Night Football matchup? So far this season, Cam Newton and the Panthers have been a pleasant surprise. Their .500 record has come against a relatively light workload, but the fact that Carolina has been capitalizing when it’s had the chance has served them well on the NFL moneyline. Hailed as seven-point favorites against the winless Bucs this week, the Panthers will look to continue the trend. A win may not bump them ahead of their division rival in the NFC South, the New Orleans Saints, but it could push them up the NFL futures. The Panthers trail the Saints but sit comfortably ahead of both the Bucs and Atlanta Falcons. Worth noting is that Atlanta finished last season with a 13-3 mark, the best in the NFC South, reaching the NFC Championship before falling to the Seattle Seahawks. If September and October are any indication, a downed Falcons squad is one less hurdle standing between the Panthers and their first taste of success since 2008. With 50-1 odds of winning the Super Bowl — compared to Tampa Bay’s 1,000-1 — it’s clear that this team is on the up. Whether they are playoff worthy, however, is the question that fans await an answer to. When the Panthers head south to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, they’ll have to focus not only on sanitizing the locker room but also on making sure they don’t underestimate their wild-card opponent in a moment of vulnerability. Not much has gone right for rookie quarterback Mike Glennon and the Bucs up to this point in the season, but that can change whenever a division rival rolls into town. For that reason, while it’s not exactly 49ers versus Seahawks or Peyton Manning versus Indianapolis, it’s a necessary and significant NFL matchup that fans won’t want to miss. It may take a prime-time mid-week matchup and one of the most bizarre storylines the NFL has seen in a while, but at least the football community will see it firsthand. Filed under: Headlines, NFL, Odds, Partner Staff, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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