The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Arizona Cardinals at 4:05 p.m. ET today, which means we have some time before everything really gets started. So let's talk about the offensive matchups the Buccaneers need to win to beat the Cardinals today.
WR Mike Evans vs. CB Patrick Peterson
"I think there will be some situations where those two guys will be together," said Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher, via ESPN. "There’ll be situations where he’ll be on [Vincent] Jackson, too. We’ll see on Sunday how they play us and how they do some stuff what those matchups will be."
Evans was a major factor in last week's Bucs win, with five catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. He was the team's main explosive weapon, and looked significantly improved over last season -- he had no problems catching the ball, for one. It also helps that Jameis Winston was on point with the deep ball.
Meanwhile, Patrick Peterson is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He's a ridiculous athlete, and has the skills to mirror the best receivers in the NFL. That's going to be a terrific challenge for Evans.
QB Jameis Winston vs. S Tyrann Mathieu
Tyrann Mathieu has had a fascinating career so far. He was undersized and not overly fast coming into the league, and that was in addition to a whole litany of off-field issues. The Cardinals gave him a chance and found space on their defense for him, and he's been outstanding ever since.
Mathieu is a bit of a Swiss army knife for the Cardinals defense. He can line up almost anywhere and do the job adequately, though he's at his best roaming in the box. With five interceptions last year, he can make an impact with big plays.
This year, he's being asked to play more of a deep role -- and that suits him well, too. It also means Winston will have to manipulate Mathieu with his eyes, while also contending with him on deep routes. Many route adjustments depend on the position of the deep safety, too. So that matchup, between an All-Pro safety and a promising young quarterback, will be key to the Bucs offense.
G Kevin Pamphile & T Donovan Smith vs. DT Calais Campbell
Calais Campbell has been an outstanding defensive lineman for a long, long time. He's also the most disruptive player along the Cardinals defensive line. And Pamphile and Smith will have to reckon with him for most of the game.
That'll be interesting, given that Pamphile is a backup and Smith was at best up-and-down last year. Both of them are coming off a very good first game of the season, but the Atlanta Falcons weren't able to give them a really tough challenge, either.
That'll be different this week, and the way Pamphile and Smith perform will be absolutely crucial for the Bucs' intermediate-to-deep passing game.