Two teams from the NFC South made the playoffs last season.  The two teams that did not, Carolina and Tampa Bay, will square off in Week 1 with hopes of joining the playoff picture in 2012.  What’s going to happen on Sunday?  Here are my Three Bold Predictions.

Bold Prediction Number One: Doug Martin officially introduces himself to Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw something special in Doug Martin during his time at Boise State.  That is the reason they drafted him in the first round, and why he will be starting in Week 1. Carolina’s rush defense ranked among the worst in football last season (No. 25) allowing 130.8 yards per game.  The Panthers did add linebacker Luke Kuechly in the first round of the draft, but I think will outshine his rookie counterpart with 75 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Bold Prediction Number Two: Cam Newton continues where he left off in 2011.

It is not a fluke that Cam Newton won the Heisman Trophy during his lone season at Auburn.  It was not a fluke that he was the Offensive Rookie of the Year and broke the single season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 14.  Newton is an amazing athlete who is continuing to develop as a quarterback.  Even facing a difficult road opponent in the Buccaneers, Newton will account for three touchdowns on Sunday.  He will throw for two touchdowns and rush for another.  With his amazing rushing ability, 325 total yards (250 through the air and 75 on the ground) should not be too much to expect.

Bold Prediction Number Three: Josh Freeman throws for more yards than Cam Newton.

Josh Freeman has thrown for 300 or more yards in a game three times in his career.  Week 1 will bring the fourth occasion of the event against Newton and the Panthers.  I think Carolina will jump out to an early lead in this contest, and first-year head coach Greg Schiano will have to open up the playbook early in the contest just to keep things interesting.  They might be empty passing yards in the fourth quarter trying to play catch-up, but Freeman’s post game passing total will be greater than Newton’s.

Bold Scoring Prediction:

Carolina - 27
Tampa Bay - 16