The Tampa Bay Buccaneers come off their mini-bye to face a team that destroyed them last year, the Arizona Cardinals. How do the Bucs stack up in 2017?
Records: Tampa Bay 2-2, Arizona 2-3
Game Time/Network: 4:05 pm EST, Fox, Kenny Albert, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver.
Spread: Arizona -1
Series: Arizona leads the Series 10-9
Tampa Bay – Offense (18th in scoring, 6th overall, 3rd passing, 27th rushing), Defense (14th in scoring, 30th overall, 31st vs. the pass, 8th vs. the run)
Arizona – Offense (29th in scoring, 14th overall, 2nd passing, 32nd rushing), Defense (27th in scoring, 15th overall, 21st vs. the pass, 12th vs. the run)
Bucs Player to Watch
Jameis Winston had one of his worst performances as a professional quarterback in Arizona last year. Winston’s turnovers led to the game getting out of hand and gave the Bucs no shot at winning but he’s determined to atone for those mistakes. Winston, despite some inconsistency, is off to a really good start this year with only 3 turnovers in his first four games. As a road quarterback, Winston has slightly more turnovers than he’s had on home turf, so it will be imperative to protect the football again this week.
Winston also has to avoid focusing on just one of his weapons and take advantage of Desean Jackson, Cameron Brate and others and the Cardinals would be expected to try and take Mike Evans out of the game.
Cardinals Player to Watch
It’s been a terrible year for the Cards rushing attack after losing All-Pro David Johnson to a season-ending injury. Enter Adrian Peterson, whom Arizona traded for this week. Peterson was an afterthought in the Saints offense but that won’t be the case in Arizona where he’s expected to be the feature back. The question is – can he still be a factor? Since narrowly edging out Doug Martin for the NFL rushing title in 2015, the future Hall of Famer’s body has started to break down.
He’s had one hundred yard game in his last 12 games and is barely averaging over 3 yards a carry this season. He’ll be facing a Bucs defense that has been very stingy against the run.
It will be interesting to see if the Cards try to make Peterson the focal point to justify the trade. That may play into Tampa Bay’s hands as the Bucs’ biggest weakness on defense – pass defense – is the Cardinals biggest strength on offense. If they go away from the passing game to appease Peterson, that’s a good thing for Tampa Bay.
When the Bucs Have the Ball
Last year, Jameis tried to force the football to Tampa Bay’s top target, Mike Evans, to the tune of 18 targets. He only caught six balls for 70 yards and All-Pro CB Patrick Peterson victimized Tampa Bay in that ball game for an interception while Marcus Cooper picked off two other balls, returning one for a pick-six. With Cooper now in Chicago, Winston won’t have to worry about him, but the Cardinals do still have a tough secondary to contend with.
Tampa Bay will definitely try to get Doug Martin going early. Martin got injured in the previous meeting and started the downward spiral of his 2016 season.
When the Cardinals Have the Ball
As we mentioned earlier – the big question is what will Arizona do on offense? Will they force the ball into the hands of Peterson or will they slowly interwind him into the offense? The Cards have some talented wideouts in the ageless Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and speedy J.J. Nelson.
Carson Palmer has taken a beating this season, being sacked an eye-popping 19 times, which has led to six turnovers by the 15-year pro in just five games. Palmer has attempted 36 or more passes in each of his games in 2017.
Weird Facts That Might Only Be Interesting To Me
- Carson Palmer is actually only 2-3 vs. Tampa Bay with 11 TDs and 8 Ints.
- Palmer is 8-13 overall against teams in the NFC South.
- Despite averaging 109 yards a game and 3 touchdowns against them, Adrian Peterson’s Minnesota Vikings never beat Tampa Bay with him on the field.
- In his past three games vs. NFC West teams, Winston has thrown for 894 yds (298 per game), 8 touchdowns and 3 ints.
- Winston actually has a higher QB rating on the road than at home, 87.6 with 30 TDs and 20 Ints. In his 17 starts, he’s averaged 270 yds a game while amassing an 8-9 record as a starter.
- New Bucs kicker Patrick Murray in his 3 career games indoors is perfect 100% of field goals and extra points with a long of 55 yards.