Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) at Arizona Cardinals (0-1) Sunday, September 18, 2016, 4:05 P.M. ET
University of Phoenix Stadium (65,000) Network Television: FOX Play-By-Play: Thom Brennaman Analysts: Charles Davis/Chris Spielman Sideline: Pete Schrager Bucs Radio: US 103.5, Flagship Station (103.5 FM, 620 AM & 95.3 FM) Play-By-Play: Gene Deckerhoff Analyst: Dave Moore Sideline: T.J. Rives Last Game: Tampa Bay Won at Atlanta, 31-24; Arizona Lost vs. New England, 23-21
Starting the season 2-0 would energize the city of Tampa and give a young Bucs team a wealth of momentum and confidence heading back to Ray Jay for Week 3. A win in the desert won’t come easy, though. The Cardinals, a Super Bowl contender fresh off an NFC Championship appearance, are looking to avoid a 0-2 start and they certainly have the offensive firepower to recover.
Defensive coordinator Mike Smith called Carson Palmer an “upper echelon” QB and enough couldn’t be said this week about RB David Johnson, WR Larry Fitzgerald and the plethora of weapons on the Cardinals offense. Not to mention a defensive side of the ball in Arizona with arguably the best secondary. Tampa Bay will have its hands full, to be sure, but like Jameis Winston, Gerald McCoy and others have said in some form or another this past week, “They have their playmakers, but we have ours.” A confident Bucs team would turn into a legitimate early contender with a victory in Week 2. Read how the Pewter Reporters see this game unfolding.
PewterReport.com Publisher & Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds Expect the Buccaneers to come out in a two-minute, no-huddle offense with a three-wide receiver set to attack Arizona’s 3-4 defense the same way Tampa Bay attacked Cleveland’s 3-4 defense in the preseason. I expect a high-scoring game, a desert shootout, if you will. Look for Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston to continue to spread the ball around and pick on rookie cornerback Brandon Williams, while steering clear of Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals will blitz Winston early, and expect him to counter with screen passes to Doug Martin and Charles Sims, in addition to wide receiver screens. The Bucs have struggled to run the ball effectively, and if they can’t establish a ground game against the Cardinals, Winston’s play-action passing game loses its effectiveness.
On defense, the Bucs will miss the pass rush from defensive end Jacquies Smith, who is out for the year with an ACL injury. I expect Howard Jones and Noah Spence to step up and help Robert Ayers and Gerald McCoy get pressure on Cardinals QB Carson Palmer. Arizona’s speed receivers John Brown and J.J. Nelson concern me just as much as Larry Fitzgerald and Malcolm Floyd do because Tampa Bay’s secondary isn’t the fastest. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith needs to dial up some blitzes to get the ball out of Palmer’s hands quickly or get him on the ground.
The Bucs are full of confidence after beating the Falcons last week and have a chance to steal another road win against the Cardinals, who will be reeling with another road loss. Expect Arizona to be in early season desperation mode, but Tampa Bay is ready for another upset as long as it is plus-2 in the turnover margin.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Bucs Win 31-26
Reynolds’ Pick To Click: WR Adam Humphries
PewterReport.com Editor in Chief & Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook Why not us? That should be the thoughts of the entire Bucs organization after going to Atlanta on the road last week and taking home an NFC South victory. This football team doesn’t know – or at least believe – they shouldn’t win this football game. And that is the most dangerous kind of a team, one who doesn’t know it shouldn’t go win back-to-back games on the road to start the season.
The Cardinals will be ready following a season-opening loss to the Patriots. Going 0-2 to start the season is a large hole to climb out for any team. So I expect Arizona to come out fast and move the football. The Cardinals are loaded with weapons, but so are the Bucs, and while I see the Bucs falling behind early, Jameis Winston will have another terrific game and the defense will settle into a groove after absorbing Arizona’s best punch early.
I’ll take the good guys in a hard fought back-and-fourth game, with another late fourth quarter defensive stand.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Bucs Win 31-28
Cook’s Pick To Click: WR Mike Evans
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Eric Horchy This game suddenly doesn’t look as daunting as it did when the schedule first came out. Funny what a nice win coupled with an opponent’s loss can do to expectations.
Arizona’s talented defense allowed New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to settle in and throw for 264 yards during his first career start. Jameis Winston will find his openings to pile up some decent numbers again, but a Cardinals secondary led by cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Tyrann Mathieu that failed to pick off Garoppolo will flip the field at least twice Sunday afternoon. An X factor in this will be the Tampa Bay rushing attack and its ability to avoid getting into too many third-and-long passing situations.
After getting to Atlanta’s Matt Ryan three times last week, a Bucs pass rush featuring defensive end Robert Ayers will tack a couple more to their season-long total. It may not be enough, however, to rattle veteran Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer into the type of poor decisions that keep Arizona from cracking the 30-point barrier. Beyond dealing with Palmer finding targets Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd, running back David Johnson is a threat to go off Sunday.
Horchy’s Score Prediction: Cardinals 32-20 Horchy’s Pick To Click: DE Robert Ayers
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Zach Shapiro Sunday’s game in Arizona suddenly looks more winnable for the Bucs than it did two weeks ago. Optimism is riding high in Tampa following a 31-24 win in Atlanta, one that saw an aggressive offense and a swarming defense. The Cardinals, meanwhile, look a little more vulnerable. For the Bucs to steal another road victory – and position themselves for a real shot at the postseason – they’ll need to continue the up-tempo pace and take the ball away a couple times on defense.
While I believe the Bucs are a team on the rise, and a win here is possible, I don’t think they have the experience just yet to take out a top contender on the road – especially one that’s already in desperate need of a home win.
With an ascending running back and reliable wide receivers, I think Carson Palmer and the Cardinals offense prove too much for Tampa Bay in the second half of a close contest. Jameis Winston, as I see it, will throw for a lot of yards and Doug Martin will have a solid day running, but the Cardinals 3-4 defense will make one or two more plays than the Bucs defense. A competitive loss on Sunday may temper expectations a bit in Tampa, but it certainly won’t derail a promising season. Growing pains and minor speed bumps are all part of the process for a young team turning the corner.
Shapiro’s Score Prediction: Cardinals Win 34-23
Shapiro’s Pick To Click: CB Vernon Hargreaves III
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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