The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Arizona Cardinals in about an hour, which means it’s prediction time!
The Cardinals were one of the best teams in the NFL last year, but they eventually stalled in the playoffs. They’re also a very old team — some of their core players are Carson Palmer (36), Evan Mathis (34), Larry Fitzgerald (33) and Calais Campbell (30). The window is closing in Arizona.
That was visible last week, when the Cardinals lost a close game to the New England Patriots. They were good, sure, but they looked a little slower and a little more vulnerable than they were last year. Meanwhile, the Bucs are better than they were last year, and look very explosive on offense.
For me, the absence of Frostee Rucker and Robert Nkemdiche makes a big difference. That’s a big blow to a Cardinals defense that was already a little worse than last year, and it means the Bucs can more easily give Donovan Smith and Kevin Pamphile some extra help against Chandler Jones and Calais Campbell. That, in turn, should give Jameis Winston time to find Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins down the field.
On defense, the Bucs have the speed to hang with David Johnson and the Cardinals offense, but the size and physicality of their receivers might give them some fits. Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves will be going up against Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, and that’s no easy assignment for anyone.
This should still be a very tough and close game, though. It won’t be an easy win for the Bucs, if it will be a win at all, but I’m predicting a 28-26 victory and a 2-0 start for Tampa Bay.