Making matters worse for Tampa Bay is the fact that star running back Doug Martin has been diagnosed with a labrum tear in his left shoulder, an injury which could sideline the second-year pro for the remainder of the season.
The Panthers have won two straight behind an opportunistic defense led by safety Mike Mitchell, the only player in the NFL with three interceptions and two sacks, along with defensive end Charles Johnson, who has 16 1/2 sacks and seven forced fumbles over his last 19 outings.
PREDICTION: Panthers 23, Bucs 13
Dallas (4-3) at Detroit (4-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Lions by 3
THE SKINNY: We could be in for a shootout when the NFC East-leading Cowboys visit Detroit. Dallas QB Tony Romo has passed for at least 300 yards and two TDs in his previous three efforts against the Lions, while star receiver Dez Bryant is tied for the NFC lead with six TD receptions.
The Lions bring QB Matthew Stafford to the table, who ranks second in the NFL with 12,134 passing yards since 2011, along with RB Reggie Bush, who is third in the league with 121.8 scrimmage yards per game, and WR Calvin Johnson, who snared eight balls for 96 yards and two TDs the last time Detroit faced Dallas.
PREDICTION: Lions 30, Cowboys 27
San Francisco (5-2) at Jacksonville (0-7), Sunday, 1 p.m. - NFL International Series, Wembley Stadium
LINE: 49ers by 16 1/2
THE SKINNY: Hopping the pond doesn't figure to make life any easier for the winless Jaguars, who will play the role as host in this NFL International Series affair at London's Wembley Stadium.
The defending NFC champion 49ers have been hitting their stride recently, winning four straight and scoring 30-or-more points in each of those games. San Francisco is also familiar with the UK, having topped Denver in Britain back on Oct. 31, 2010.
"We've done it before," said 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley said when asked about playing in London. "This is our second trip to London. Everyone here is used to long trips, and I think it's beneficial."
The Jags don't have much to hang their hat on, but QB Chad Henne has passed for over 300 yards in two consecutive games thanks in large part to the return of talented second-year wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who leads NFL in receptions (25) and receiving yards (384) since returning from suspension in Week 5.
PREDICTION: 49ers 31, Jaguars 21
Cleveland (3-4) at Kansas City (7-0), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Chiefs by 7
THE SKINNY: What a difference a year makes. The Chiefs are the last unbeaten team in football and the first club in NFL history to start 7-0 after losing 14-or-more games in the previous season. Kansas City will be aiming for its first 8-0 start since 2003 (9-0) thanks in large part to its plus-11 turnover ratio, the best in the NFL.
"The more you win, the closer you get to the playoffs," said Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who joined Dieter Brock of the 1985 Los Angeles Rams as the only players since the 1970 merger to win their first seven games to start a season with a new team. "As you get later into the season, the stakes get bigger."
In the Super Bowl era, 31 teams have started 7-0 and all 31 made the playoffs. Fifteen of those 31 advanced to the Super Bowl with nine of those clubs winning the Lombardi Trophy.
"It feels real good," said Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, who is one of only two players (O.J. Simpson) to record at least 100 scrimmage yards and a touchdown in each of their first seven games to start a season. "I'm just blessed that we continue to win games, but we've still got to play consistently."