When studying for this game today, I was going over stats and rosters as I always do. In doing so, it's still hard to believe that the Cardinals are a .500 team and the Bucs sit at 4-2. In similar fashion as Tampa Bay, the games the Cardinals have lost have been blowouts and the ones they have one have been close games against 2 teams that are average at best and an inconsistent New Orleans team. I'm certainly not trying to take anything away from them, simply pointing out who they are.
A lot has been made of Tampa Bay's marked improvement. There is no arguing that they are better than last year, but is it really that significant? The Bucs rank near the bottom in run defense and run offense have a below average pass defense, an average special teams and a slightly above average passing game. In reality the defense has regressed despite several additions, the special teams has surprisingly regressed under Bissacia who is one of the finest in the NFL, our offensive line (given hampered by injuries) is continually getting worse and effecting ground game. There is no question that C.Williams has slowed, taken a few steps back. The only improvement I can see is at SS, WR, QB, Nickel Back and K. When you look at the numbers we are giving up a half more yard per carry than we did last season. Our pass defense looks slightly better, statistically, but you must also consider the quarterbacks played: Jake Delhomme, Carson Palmer, Sam Bradford, Matt Moore, Charlie Batch and of course Drew Brees. It's an unimpressive list to say the least.
Luckily we face off against Max Hall this week. Ron Jaworski, ESPN "QB Guru" made these following statements about Max Hall
"The one thing we’ve heard about Max is the moxy and the leadership. Those are all wonderful attributes for a quarterback but the attributes you have to have week in week out to be successful over a long period of time is the ability to throw the football accurately and with velocity. When I look at the tape I don’t see either of those.
"I don’t see the ball going down the field. You see the bubble screen, the bootleg thrown in the flat and nothing down the field. You just don’t see a skill set that projects to be a consistent NFL quarterback. Things don’t look good when you’re on the field with Max Hall. It’s that simple. I’m sure he’s a wonderful guy giving everything he’s got but the skill set just isn’t there."
"If you do think you can develop Max Hall that’s wonderful. It’s going to be a project at best. If that’s the way the coaches feel that’s great for them but it’s not great for the rest of the football team. The players want to win now. You have the NFC West which is wide open. When I look at the skill set, Derek Anderson gives you the best chance to win right now."
I don't know that I agree that Derek Anderson gives them a better chance to win. Anderson has had several bad outings this season. Honestly, I'm not sure there is much of a difference other than DA's experience. However with Breaston back this week, you need someone who can launch it deep. Steve Breaston and Larry Fitzgerald make up on the best receiver tandems in the league. While the Tampa 2 would make sense against two deep threats, I think you will see the Bucs mix it up even more than they have the rest of the season. I have seen a lot of Man-Under coverages from Morris this season. I think you will see Talib manned up on Fitzgerald with help from Grimm over the top. I think you will see mixed coverages on the other side against Breaston. The safeties also have to stay disciplined against the Play-Action. If Max Hall is going to be successful going deep, he needs separation from his receivers. Combine that with the Buccaneers propensity to give up big runs and 5.3 YPC the safeties have to be on their game.
Beanie Wells will get the start against the Bucs despite Tim Hightower being vastly more productive. When quizzing RevengeoftheBirds readers they stated it was because he has 3 fumbles in 6 games. While no coach wants to see fumbles, Wells has 1 in 4 games. I would take the higher production total over 2 more fumbles. Mike Williams boasts as many fumbles and has far fewer touches a game. Either way, both backs will see action. Since Beanie Wells has been active he has seen far more carries than Hightower, but it seems like the trend is that Wells sees anywhere from 14-20 carries while Hightower is getting 7-10. About a 2-1 ratio.
Arizona saw some huge departures on offense, namely Warner and Boldin. Their defense also lost some key pieces, namely Rolle and Dansby. One would expect for their pass defense to suffer, but they have held steady against the pass because of the outstanding play of Kerry Rhodes and the solid CB play of Greg Toler. If the Bucs are looking to exploit an area of weakness on the Cards defense it will be by finding the right matchup for Kellen Winslow. Antonio Gates had a huge game against the Cards and revealed a way for the Bucs to get some points on the board. I can't help but to think that running LGB more often will prove to be successful and open up the field more. If the Bucs hope to continue their winning ways they need to find a ground game. Freeman can't thrive with a one-dimensional offense and last week was proof to that.
Any time a team travels across country they are at a disadvantage. I know many will argue that the West Coast is at more of a disadvantage because it's like playing a 10AM game. Regardless, the stats aren't overwhelmingly good for either coast. This will be the first 430 game for the Bucs this season.
Most of you probably think of me as a pessimist. I'm not. I just do my best to look at games objectively to give the readers of the site an honest evaluation. My prediction will reflect that this week. I think the Cardinals get some yards on the ground (150+) and hit on a couple of big plays through the air attack. I don't see this as an unusually high-scoring game but expect the Bucs offense to continue their struggles from last week.
Running Backs - Advantage Card's
Quarterbacks - Advantage Bucs
WR - Cardinals
Offensive Line - Cardinals
Tight Ends - Bucs
Defensive Line - Cardinals
Linebackers - Slight edge to Bucs
Safeties - Cardinals
Cornerbacks - Bucs
Kicker - Push
Punter - Slight edge to Cardinals
KR - Cardinals
Coaching - Bucs
Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13.