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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

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About the Author: Zach Shapiro

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: zshapiro12@gmail.com
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5 years ago

This is going to be a tough game but it would appear that Arizona is banged up a bit. If we win this I am officially on the band wagon and will give up my 8 and 8 season prediction. Winning early in the season is a confidence builder especially for a young team.

5 years ago

Yes, the Cardinals were one of the better teams last season while the Bucs were well…………the Bucs. But I know after watching this team for 40 years that anything can happen when a new season begins………good or bad. Why not another Worst to First surprise? Keep it close, keep hanging around, don’t get bullied, frustrate the red birds and win it in the end with a Winston TD pass to Luke Stocker. Bucs 20 Cardinals 17.

Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Johngruden would have to be revived if Stocker caught the winning pass LOL

Reply to  EastEndBoy
5 years ago

I agree. If he even gets one catch it will be something.

5 years ago

Nice dig, you must have a friend who lives in the desert. Every day is different, let alone every year. Why not us? Really, isn’t it about time a little luck rolls our way? Bucs win! Bucs win!

5 years ago

No reason we can’t win…we’re just as talented if not more so…any given Sunday! Go Bucs!

5 years ago

Malcolm Floyd should not scare the Bucs this week because he plays for San Diego. You got the wrong Floyd in your article. You meant Michael Floyd.

5 years ago

Going to listen to the radio broadcast with sound on the TV off.
Can’t wait for Gene to scream “touchdown Luke Stocker, Bucs win, Bucs win, Bucs win”.
Even better scenario, Gene screams ” 52 yard field is up and good, BUCS win, Bucs win, Bucs win.”
Come on Eric and Zach, jump on the bus would you.
Bucs 24 Cards 20


Reply to  chetthevette
5 years ago

I think we need journalist like Eric and Zach to temper some of this unbridled homerism. Expectations are now at atmospheric levels. Those of us who play the markets know that when everyone is euphoric and buying we should sell, sell, sell! I love my Bucs, but we’re not the 76 Steelers just yet; but we’re on our way.

5 years ago

I think the Cardinals are not the same team they were last year. At least not yet they aren’t. Loosing can become a slide real quick if your not 100% focused. I think the Bucs have a great shot at going in there and coming out with the victory. I don’t see Peterson being a problem for Evans. In fact, I think Evans is going to be a problem for Peterson with his height, and strength. I see the Bucs winning this one 28-24. Mike Evans has a big day!

5 years ago

I don’t see any reason that the Cardinals should be favored. I see the Bucs winning. I don’t see Palmer as being all that great. Go Bucs!

5 years ago

I’m 35 minutes into NFL Total Access and – despite our on-the-road-divisional win, featuring week one’s NFC Offensive Player of the week, the Bucs have not been mentioned – only “referenced” re the Cardinals’ needs to “bounce back week two.” Guess I don’t care (or care too much) what these show folks have to say, but I am SO ready for what will happen next week IF we leave the desert with a “W” my fountain pen’s leaking. Not just because my brother, my cousin and my brother-in-law live there – and all have statues of Larry F. in their… Read more »

5 years ago

Bucs turnover the ball a lot in this one. Ariz 38 Bucs 10.

Reply to  Morgan
5 years ago

Unfortunately I was right. What do I win? Pewter Report t-shirt?

5 years ago

I think our Defense keeps it close. 24 18 Cardinals.

5 years ago

I too think it will be a defensive battle, we win the turnover battle and it will be close , Bucs win, go Bucs!!!

5 years ago

We can win but emotions will have to be in check. No crappy start for Winston sailing balls. No stupid penalties, and no turnovers. If this young team can do those 3 things we have a decent shot. If not they will get beat. That simple. Ok so what do I say? I say the Buc’s have let me down for 10 years. I’ve picked them to win so many games and the laid an egg. Lol. Still I’m a glutton for punishment. 26-24 Buc’s win!!!!!’

5 years ago

Going out in a limb here. Bucs 34-27

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