Defeating Panthers would be statement win for Buccaneers

Jameis Winston hopes to lead the Bucs to their first regular-season victory at home since Week 14 of the 2013 season. Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

TAMPA, Fla. -- Coach Lovie Smith understands that the Carolina Panthers set the standard the past two seasons in the NFC South.

On Sunday, his Tampa Bay Buccaneers will seek to make a statement.

"We have a chance to be 2-0 in the division, and that's what it's about," Smith said. "[And] they're the defending champions in our division. So in order for you to say that you're ready to make a move, you've got to knock out the champ."

The Bucs find themselves with an opportunity to achieve a number of goals in Week 4. They can spoil the Panthers' 3-0 start, end a four-game losing skid to Carolina and earn their first regular-season victory at Raymond James Stadium since beating the Buffalo Bills in Week 14 of the 2013 campaign.

"It's a big game for us," Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans said. "We're trying to go 2-2 in this first quarter of this season. They beat us four straight times, I believe. They beat us twice last year. But we're a new team. We're a better team, and I think we'll stand up well against them."

The Bucs must be better to end their recent frustrations against the Panthers. The losing streak against Carolina stands as Tampa Bay's longest active slide against an NFC South opponent. The Bucs had lost seven straight games against the New Orleans Saints before winning in Week 2 at the Superdome. The Atlanta Falcons, meanwhile, hold a two-game winning streak against Tampa Bay.

Many faces have changed since Tampa Bay's most recent victory against Carolina. In Week 11 of the 2012 season, Josh Freeman threw for 248 yards and Doug Martin ran for 138, guiding the Greg Schiano-led Bucs to a 27-21 overtime victory in Charlotte.

"It would be big for the city," Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston said. "We need that. We need to bring that winning atmosphere back into Raymond James, get that electric [atmosphere] in there. It would be a big win for us. It's a division game. It would help us toward our [goal] of winning the division. They are the defending champs. But it would be very important to get a win here this week."

Knocking down the two-time defending NFC South champion would be one way to kick-start a season.