It’s desperation time for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) and the Arizona Cardinals (2-3) this Sunday afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. These two teams got together last year in the desert with Arizona crushing Tampa Bay by a score of 40-7. Carson Palmer threw for 308 yards and three touchdown passes while Jameis Winston threw four interceptions in a very forgettable performance.
Placekicking woes once again cost the Buccaneers in a 19-14 loss to the New England Patriots. Nick Folk missed three field goals and was placed on injured reserve with the intention of releasing him once healthy. Patrick Murray is the next man up to try and salvage this field goal kicking three-ring circus for Tampa Bay. Offensively, the Buccaneers moved the ball fine against New England as they had 409 yards in total offense. Defensively, when you play Tom Brady you are going to concede yards that is a given so holding the Patriots 19 points should have been enough to win the game.
The City of Brotherly Love was not kind to the Cardinals as they could not slow down Carson Wentz in a 34-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Wentz had his way with the Arizona defense completing 21 of 30 passes for 304 yards and four touchdown passes. On the other side of the ball it was more of the same as the Cardinals were very one-dimensional and are the giving the Seattle Seahawks a run for their money with significant offensive line issues. Adrian Peterson was acquired from New Orleans earlier this week to try and jumpstart the offense, but it remains to be seen how much of a boost Peterson can give to Arizona’s running game.
Tampa Bay at Arizona
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 15 at 4:05 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Tampa Bay -1.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Jameis Winston vs. Carson Palmer
This battle between Winston and Palmer (above, right) should be fun to watch if they both can get enough time to throw the football. Winston, is completing 61.0 percent of his passes on the season and has only thrown three interceptions in four games. That is huge because there is not a lack of weapons for Winston to throw to with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. If Winston keeps the ball on target, then he should be able to put up another 300-yard passing performance.
Palmer, is facing his share of challenges in this game as Tampa Bay is going to come after him with plenty of pressure at all angles. Spotting hot reads is going to be important for Palmer as he needs to get the ball out quicker and take some of the pressure off the offensive line.
2. Adrian Peterson
Peterson believes he has something left in the tank as he joins the Cardinals, which is understandable considering the career that he has had. However, the reality is Peterson is 32 years old and really was not much of a factor during his short stint with the Saints. Peterson, had 27 carries for 81 yards for New Orleans and was expendable for a reason. It will be a very interesting storyline to watch for Arizona on Sunday and for the remainder of the season. If Peterson can’t get rolling quickly you could see him have no choice but to call it a career.
3. Dirk Koetter’s approach in the red zone
Look for a more aggressive approach in the red zone for the Buccaneers' offense as they can’t rely on anyone to make a field goal until proven otherwise. Thus, Doug Martin should get the ball plenty of times in short-yardage situations it's pretty much touchdown-or-bust for the Tampa Bay offense given the kicking woes. In addition, look for Winston to take some shots at the end zone in the passing game on early downs deep in Arizona territory as well. Another reason for Koetter to take more chances against the Cardinals inside the red zone is his defensive line as Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald should have their way with the Cardinals' offensive line all game long.
This game has the look and feel of a back and forth dogfight as Arizona can’t afford a fourth NFC loss this early in the season. The Buccaneers are in a fierce battle in the NFC South and can’t afford to fall two game back in the loss column behind division rivals Atlanta, and Carolina. Bottom line, the two quarterbacks are going to decide this game with the quality of their play and right now Winston has a little bit of an edge over Palmer in that department. Tampa Bay escapes the desert with a narrow victory to improve to 3-2 on the season.
Prediction: Buccaneers 27, Cardinals 21
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottWhittum.