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By JEFF MEZYDLO

STATS Senior Writer
(AP) -- After Cam Newton played perhaps his best game of the season, a car accident two days later has left the Carolina Panthers wondering when their franchise quarterback will take the field again.

 

Though Newton was released from the hospital a day after the crash, he won't play Sunday when the Panthers host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

Newton suffered two fractures to his lower back Tuesday afternoon when his truck crashed and overturned in a two-car accident - for which neither he nor the driver of the other vehicle were to blame. Newton spent the night in the hospital and was said to be in good spirits when released Wednesday.

 

Though Newton didn't suffer any internal injuries and doesn't need surgery, it's uncertain if he'll play again this season.

 

"That will be determined really on a day-to-day basis and we'll see how fast the soreness goes away," team spokesman Charlie Dayton said. "He'll start the recuperation process (immediately)."

 

It's believed Newton has the same injury that Dallas' Tony Romo suffered versus Washington on Oct. 27. Though Romo sat out one game before returning to action, Newton's recovery could be longer since his injury is not football-related.

 

"It would be hard to speculate on when he'd be able to play football," said Dr. Andrew Hecht, chief of spine surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

 

Newton's play has been inconsistent this season, but he earned NFC offensive player of the week honors after throwing for 226 yards and three touchdowns while running for 83 with another score in last Sunday's 41-10 win at New Orleans.

 

The victory snapped a six-game skid and left the Panthers (4-8-1) one-half game behind Atlanta and the Saints in the weak NFC South. Carolina would repeat as division champion by winning its final three games and New Orleans losing once.

 

Coach Ron Rivera, however, won't look past the task at hand.

 

"We're facing Tampa - and we have to beat Tampa," said Rivera, whose Panthers have outscored the Buccaneers 78-33 during a three-game series winning streak.

 

As backup quarterback Derek Anderson prepared to start, Newton was at the forefront of his mind.

 

"The most important thing about this whole week is about the safety and health of one of my brothers," Anderson said. "Let him know we're all thinking about him and hoping for a speedy recovery.

 

"... We're all fired up about this weekend. Last week we played well and we hope to continue that."

 

Anderson has seen time in five games this season, and his one start came in a 20-14 season-opening victory at Tampa Bay (2-11). With Newton recovering from ankle surgery and fractured ribs, Anderson went 24 of 34 for 230 yards with two TDs and no interceptions.

 

He'll get the chance to help Carolina build on last Sunday's performance when it set a season high for points after averaging 14.5 in the previous six contests.

 

Jonathan Stewart topped the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time in 43 games with 155, including 69 on a third-quarter TD run. Stewart has averaged 7.5 per carry while gaining 240 yards in the last two games.

 

However, he was held to 20 yards on nine carries at Tampa Bay.

 

The Bucs are among the NFL's stingiest run defenses, yielding 3.94 yards per carry and only one 100-yard rusher this season.

 

Tampa Bay's problem continues to be on the offensive side of the ball, scoring more than 17 points once in the last eight games and averaging 69.6 rushing yards in the past 11. The Bucs were held to 233 total yards, including a season-low 26 on the ground, while losing their third straight contest last Sunday, 34-17 at Detroit.

 

Josh McCown threw two TD passes but two more INTs, giving him five in the past three games as he's completed just 51.7 percent of his passes. He threw for two touchdowns and two picks against the Panthers in the opener.

 

Despite McCown's struggles, coach Lovie Smith hasn't decided if he'll hand the starting job back to second-year quarterback Mike Glennon for the final three games.

 

Glennon, who started 13 games in 2013, completed 55.9 percent of his passes and threw nine TDs with six INTs while going 1-4 as a starter this season.

 

"We're going to do what gives us the best chance to win," said Smith, whose team was held to 264 total yards against Carolina in September. "If playing a player in a position won't hurt our football team to win the football game, we'll always look at that.

 

"We want to put the best product on the field, guys in the right spot, ones that give us the best opportunity to win - things we've been saying each week."

 

Vincent Jackson set season highs with 10 receptions and 159 yards against the Lions, but he's never reached 100 yards in six career games versus Carolina. He was held to four receptions for 36 yards against the Panthers this season.

 

Bucs rookie Mike Evans has eight TD receptions over the past six games.

 

Source: Hosted.Stats.com

Edited by BLUE

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Derek Anderson is gonna make the playoffs. It's happening.

 

:panthers: 27

:Bucs: 20

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Bobby Rainey is active for Week 15 against the Panthers

 

Rainey will return kickoffs and pitch in behind Doug Martin and Charles Sims. Avoid the Bucs' running backs in Week 15 fantasy lineup decisions.
Tampa Bay's Week 15 inactives are WRs Robert Herron and Solomon Patton, S Major Wright, LB Mason Foster, LT Anthony Collins, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and DT Clinton McDonald.

 

 

 

 

DeAngelo Williams is inactive for Week 15 against the Bucs.

Jonathan Stewart will draw a full workload against the Bucs.
The rest of the Panthers inactives: QB Cam Newton, G Amini Silatolu, CB James Dockery, S Robert Lester, OT David Foucault and DT Micanor Regis.

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