TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (2-2) AT ARIZONA CARDINALS (2-3)
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15, 4:05 P.M. ET
UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX STADIUM (65,000)
NETWORK TELEVISION: FOX
PLAY-BY-PLAY: KENNY ALBERT ANALYST: CHARLES DAVIS SIDELINE: PAM OLIVER
BUCS RADIO: 98ROCK, FLAGSHIP STATION (WXTB-97.9 FM)
PLAY-BY-PLAY: GENE DECKERHOFF ANALYST: DAVE MOORE SIDELINE: T.J. RIVES
LAST GAME: TAMPA BAY LOST VS. NEW ENGLAND, 19-14; ARIZONA LOST AT PHILADELPHIA, 34-7
PewterReport.com Publisher and Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
Out of all of Tampa Bay’s games thus far, this one has been the most difficult for me to predict. And I’m not sure why. I think the 2-2 Bucs can beat the 2-3 Cardinals. I don’t think the Cardinals are necessarily a more talented team, especially without defensive end Markus Golden, who tore his ACL a few weeks ago and is out for the year, guard Mike Iupati, who sustained a season-ending triceps injury, and star running back David Johnson, who injured his wrist in the season opener and won’t return until November. The Bucs should have safety T.J. Ward (hip) and linebacker Lavonte David (ankle) back on Sunday, even though the team will be without middle linebacker Kwon Alexander (hamstring), safety Keith Tandy (hip), defensive end Ryan Russell (shoulder) and special teams captain Josh Robinson (concussion).
While it was nice to see the Bucs actually have a pass rush against New England last week, notching three sacks, I’m still not convinced that Tampa Bay’s defensive line can consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks week-in and week-out. If Gerald McCoy and Co. don’t pressure and sack quarterback Carson Palmer, he could have a big day and systematically pick Tampa Bay’s secondary apart.
Second-year cornerback Vernon Hargreaves has played too soft in coverage and needs to help Tampa Bay’s pass rush by tightening up on the man he’s defending. That could prove to be problematic because Arizona’s wide receiving corps, which consists of Larry Fitzgerald, Jaron Brown, John Brown and J.J. Nelson, has a lot of speed and playmaking ability.
Without Johnson, the Cardinals have struggled to run the ball with Chris Johnson, so they cut that aging veteran and traded for another aging veteran in Adrian Peterson, who toiled in New Orleans with limited playing time. The Bucs have played well against the run this year, but Peterson is looking to prove that he still has it with a breakout game. In order to win, Tampa Bay must shut down Arizona’s rushing attack and make the Cardinals one-dimensional, then tee off on Palmer. That could be easier said than done.
On offense, Jameis Winston needs to start faster and be more accurate in quarters 1-3 rather that starting slow and turning it on with a furious fourth quarter finish as he has done too often in his career, and most recently in last week’s 19-14 loss to New England. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals come out in man coverage, which is their staple defense, or switch it up as Minnesota and New England to confuse and frustrate Winston. Zone coverage, with safeties over the top, has taken away the deep, explosive plays that Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter crave in the passing game.
If Winston sees zone coverage he needs to be patient and take the check downs and underneath throws that the defense gives him and moves the chains. If Koetter sees zone he needs to run the hell out of Doug Martin. Actually, Koetter needs to run the hell out of Martin regardless to give the Bucs offense balance and force the Cardinals to play man coverage by bringing a safety down into the box in order to stop Tampa Bay’s ground game.
I think the Bucs win this game by a field goal as new kicker Pat Murray converts on all of his extra points and all three field goals, including the first game-winner of his career.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Buccaneers win 23-20
Reynolds’ Pick To Click: K Pat Murray
PewterReport.com Editor and Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
The Bucs finished their first quarter of the season with a mediocre 2-2 record. Not great, not terrible, but not good enough if they want to be a playoff team. This week the Bucs start the second quarter of the season against the Cardinals who have underwhelmed so far this season, going 2-3 so far. While their record isn’t what they want it to be, the Cards are still a dangerous team.
On paper this appears to be a winnable game for the Bucs. The Cardinals are without their top running back David Johnson, but did trade for Adrian Peterson this week. Will be be ready to play? And how effective will he be? Even if Peterson gets a handful of carries, and is effective, the Cardinals will still pretty much be one dimensional. Normally that is a good thing for a defense. But with the Bucs struggling to generate a consistent pass rush, that actually may play in the Cardinals favor. Carson Palmer may put the ball up 50 times in the this game. And if Palmer has all day to throw, Arizona will put some points on the board undoubtably.
The question now is, can the Bucs match them? I think so. Arizona plays a lot of man and if the Bucs offensive line can protect Jameis Winston he, like Palmer, should have success through the air. I will take Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson against man coverage. And while the Cards will double one of them with safety help, someone will be single covered. This is a game where Cam Brate and O.J. Howard could have really big days. Add in a rejuvenated – and fresh Doug Martin – the Bucs have too many offensive weapons.
If Winston plays smart and protects the ball, I see the Bucs pulling away late and coming back to Tampa with a 3-2 record.
Cook’s’ Score Prediction: Buccaneers win 30-24
Reynolds’ Pick To Click: WR Mike Evans
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Trevor Sikkema
Bucs fans must have their minds going all over the place with this match up for the Arizona Cardinals. For one, they certainly remember their team getting whopped last year in the western desert 40-7. But, on the other hand, it’s been more than a full calendar year since then, and if you look at the event over that time, it’s clear that the Bucs have hit their groove more and more, and the Cardinals have regressed a bit.
The Cardinals are 2-3 coming into this match up. On one hand, they’re the second-best passing attack in the NFL with 289 passing yards per game. Carson Palmer is on pace to throw for more attempts this season than he has at any point in his career. The reason for that is because, without running back David Johnson, they’re dead last in the NFL in rushing with just 51 rushing yards per game.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t exactly bode well for the Buccaneers defense. They would rather go up against a good rushing attack than a good passing attack, at this point. On that side of the match up, simply put, the Buccaneers have to be better in the secondary. Vernon Hargreaves has to play better and more confident than he has recently, or they’re going to test him early and often. T.J. Ward being questionable is a good sign, but regardless, Justin Evans and Chris Conte will have to play smart, as well.
On the other side of the ball, though the Cardinals have plenty of athletes to name in Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Hasaan Reddick, their defense has been average-to-below average against the run and pass. They’re giving up nearly 100 yards per game to opposing rushing attacks, and I think that’s the key for the Buccaneers. Though Winston must be more efficient in his own right, the usage of Doug Martin will tell this tale, in my opinion.
Though there are some key injuries for the Buccaneers, I think this is their (revenge) game to lose, even on the road.
SIKKEMA’S PREDICTION: Bucs Win, 31-27
SIKKEMA’S CLICK-TO-PICK: Doug Martin