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What it means for Panthers

The NFC South just got a little bit harder. The division’s cellar-dwellers have made a major change at the top. According to a report by Ian Rapoport at NFL Network, former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is officially set to become Dirk Koetter’s replacement as head coach of the Buccaneers.

Arians of course coached the Arizona team that the Panthers met in the NFC Championship a few years ago. His arrival in Tampa signals a new era that should make it more difficult to write off the Bucs. Known as a creative and aggressive play-caller, Arians is potentially a radical upgrade over Koetter.

Koetter went just 19-29 in his three seasons at the helm and Tampa’s trouble with the Panthers goes back even further. The Bucs had lost nine of 11 meetings with Carolina prior to their December win.

The true question mark for Arians and the Buccaneers is at the quarterback position. If Arians can get Jameis Winston to maximize his talents and minimize his costly mistakes, the Bucs might soon offer legitimate competition for the Panthers, Falcons and Saints. That’s a big if, though. Winston was responsible for 21 of his team’s league-worst 35 giveaways this past season.

Carolina has its own quarterback troubles, of course. If the Panthers can’t fix Cam Newton’s shoulder this offseason they may soon replace Tampa as the weakest link in the division.

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