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Dive that began with Bucs comes full circle

The Panthers and General Petraeus have something in common.

They’re both wondering how they let themselves get into this mess.

Tampa Bay’s visit this Sunday – plenty of good tickets are probably available from your neighbors – completes a small circle in this season. It was 10 weeks ago that the Panthers went to Tampa, and perhaps it was an omen that game day dawned with heavy rain and thunder. It only got worse for the Panthers.

Two weeks ago, the Panthers took a step forward by winning at Washington. Last week, they trampolined backward against Denver.

Starting over is not an option. It’s all about digging out now. Finding the right shovel is the trick.

TAMPA BAY at CAROLINA: The encouraging thought is the Panthers will almost certainly play better than they did in their season-opening loss at Tampa Bay. Won’t they? Panthers 24, Bucs 20.

GREEN BAY at DETROIT: Not sure I’m buying the Packers this season. Lions 29, Packers 23.

ARIZONA at ATLANTA: The ’72 Dolphins popped the cork on their champagne last week when the Falcons, the last unbeaten team, fell. The Falcons went back to drinking sweet tea and going about their business. Falcons 31, Cardinals 20.

CLEVELAND at DALLAS: The Cowboys are selling – or at least trying to sell – T-shirts celebrating their matchup with Cleveland this Sunday, calling it an old school matchup. You can have one for $21.99. Get two while you’re at it. Splurge. Cowboys 27, Browns 13.

PHILADELPHIA at WASHINGTON: The Nick Foles era begins for Philly. Good luck with that. Eagles 24, Redskins 20.

NEW YORK JETS at ST. LOUIS: As if the Jets didn’t have enough problems, now they’re reportedly distraught about the news that Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez have broken up. How much can one team take? Rams 31, Jets 10.

CINCINNATI at KANSAS CITY: Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou victories? Not here. Not after a Monday night game in Pittsburgh. Bengals 27, Chiefs 14.

JACKSONVILLE at HOUSTON: Please don’t stare. Texans 41, Jags 10.

NEW ORLEANS at OAKLAND: Are the Saints the scariest 4-5 team in the NFL? No doubt. Saints 34, Raiders 24.

SAN DIEGO at DENVER: Watching Peyton Manning here last week was an in-person reminder of why he’s one of a kind. Everyone else is playing football. He’s playing chess like Bobby Fischer. Broncos 29, Chargers 20.

INDIANAPOLIS at NEW ENGLAND: The first chapter in the Tom Brady-Andrew Luck saga. Kind of like that “Twilight” series, only without the werewolves. It’s tempting to take the Colts like it’s tempting to have that second piece of pie. Patriots 31, Colts 28.

BALTIMORE at PITTSBURGH: No Ray Lewis. Now no Ben Roethlisberger. Ravens 24, Steelers 13.

CHICAGO at SAN FRANCISCO: There was a time not long ago when I thought the Giants were the best team in the NFC. Nobody thinks that anymore. Slide over and make room for me on the 49ers’ bandwagon, please. 49ers 33, Bears 20.

Last week: 8-5

Season: 87-48