Bruce Arians finds himself in both the past and present this week as his current team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6), takes on his former team in the Arizona Cardinals (3-5-1).
It’s the first game back in Raymond James Stadium since September 22, but how much energy will be on the field and in the stadium itself? A four-game losing streak has really put a damper on a season that many thought may include a trip to the postseason for the first time since 2007.
But as any player or coach will tell you - all that matters is the now. It doesn’t matter what anyone has done in the past, what matters is what these teams can do on Sunday.
Without further delay, let’s dive in to this week’s preview.
- All-time series record: The Cardinals lead the all-time series, 11-9. Tampa Bay is 6-6 at home and 3-5 on the road.
- Playoff history: These two teams have never met in the postseason.
- Longest win streak: Arizona won five games in a row from 1986-1988.
- Largest margin of victory: A 2016 meeting saw Arizona take home an easy, 40-7 win over the Bucs.
- 2019 offensive and defensive rankings: The Bucs have the 13th-ranked offense (7th pass, 19th run) and the 23rd-ranked defense (1st run, 31st pass). Arizona is ranked 20th on offense (19th pass, 14th run) and on 30th defense (29th pass, 23rd run).
What To Watch For
- Arizona’s run game vs. Tampa Bay’s run defense: The Cardinals are rated as the third-most efficient rushing attack by Football Outsiders. Their running backs average around 2.7 yards before contact. Will the Bucs hold up on the defensive side of the ball?
- The Kyler Murray factor: Or should it just be the “rookie quarterback” factor? The Bucs are 3-12 against rookie quarterbacks since 2011, including a 32-31 to Daniel Jones and the Giants back in Week 3.
- Tampa Bay’s pass protection: Arizona is pretty good at getting to the quarterback, especially on the edges with Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs. Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson will have their hands full.
- Third down defense: The Cardinals are one of the league’s worst teams in terms of converting third downs. The Bucs’ defense is one of the best teams at getting off the field on third down. That can’t change on Sunday.
- Second half turnovers: The Bucs have ten total turnovers in the second half and seven of those have come in the fourth quarter. Go ahead and lock in Arizona for the upset if that continues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- QB Jameis Winston: He probably played his best game of the year in Seattle and will need another good game if the Bucs want to beat the Cards.
- WR Chris Godwin: With Patrick Peterson likely shadowing Mike Evans, Godwin should snap out of his two-week slump.
- Any tight end: The Cardinals are terrible at guarding tight ends. The Bucs would be foolish to not deploy OJ Howard, Cameron Brate, or Tanner Hudson.
- ILB Devin White: White has improved each week and will be crucial in stopping Murray and the offense.
- OLB Jason Pierre-Paul: It almost seems like JPP never missed any time. He’s been great since his return and will need to corral Murray and keep him from breaking the pocket.
- CB Jamel Dean: Last week can’t happen again. This is a good week for Dean to build up some confidence.
- QB Kyler Murray: The rookie has played well so far in 2019 and should find some success against the Bucs’ defense.
- RBs Kenyan Drake/David Johnson: Drake played well in his Arizona debut against the 49ers and Johnson is one of the best dual-threat backs when healthy.
- WR Larry Fitzgerald: The crafty veteran should have his best game of the season working against this young secondary.
- LB Chandler Jones: Jones is just one sack (9.5) behind Shaq Barrett (10.5) to tie for the league lead.
- LB Terrell Suggs: He’s dealt with a hamstring issue leading up to the game, but if he plays, the ageless wonder must be accounted for.
- CB Patrick Peterson: Arizona’s best corner hasn’t played well at all since his return from suspension. The Bucs are hoping that he doesn’t pick his game up this weekend.
- Mike Evans and Chris Godwin arejust the second pair of teammates in NFL history to each have 750+ receiving yards through the first eight games of a team’s season (Demaryius Thomas, 894, and Emmanuel Sanders, 785, in 2014).
- In addition, Evans currently ranks second in the NFL in receiving with 842 yards, while Godwin ranks sixth with 766. Together, they are the most potent receiving duo in the NFL with a combined 1,608 yards receiving and 13 receiving touchdowns through Week 9.
- The Buccaneers have scored 230 points through their first eight games of the 2019 season, which stand as the most points scored through eight games in franchise history.
- Evans caught 12 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown at Seattle. With at least 175 receiving yards against the Cardinals, he would be the first NFL player to ever post three consecutive games with 175 or more receiving yards.
- Evans has seven receiving touchdowns through eight games. He needs one more to tie his own mark (eight in 2016) for the most receiving touchdowns through nine games in team history.
- Evans has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first five seasons and, with 158 or more receiving yards this season, will join Randy Moss (1998-2003) as the only players in NFL history to record 1,000 or more receiving yards in each of their first six seasons. Evans would extend his team record for 1,000-yard receiving seasons and consecutive 1,000- yard receiving seasons.
- With 10 or more receptions against the Cardinals, Evans will become the only player in team history to record three consecutive games with at least 10 receptions.
- Evans has 842 receiving yards through eight games. He needs 21 yards to pass Joey Galloway (862 in 2005) for the most receiving yards through nine games in team history.
*Stats provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Communications Department
Despite all the feels heading into this game - it’s not going to be any easy contest.
We are officially past the halfway mark in the season, so we now have a firm grip on what to expect from our team(s). We know who the Bucs are and what needs to happen to win. We know who the Cardinals are and what needs to happen to win.
In short, I think the Bucs get it done, but not without a lot of trouble from the Cardinals. This feels like a game where the Bucs’ run defense breaks down, which allows Murray to make some plays in the passing game. Fitzgerald should be able to find his spots, which will make life harder on the Bucs’ defense.
If Tampa Bay can hold off the Cardinals pass rush, then it will make life a lot simpler, but that’s easier said than done when referencing the team that has given up the most sacks in the NFL.
Tampa Bay finds a way to get it done and ends the four-game losing streak.