By Max Luckan
Both the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off blowout losses in Week 3. The Bucs suffered a 23-3 loss at the hands of the New England Patriots and the Cardinals were blown out by the New Orleans Saints 31-7.
For now, the storm in Tampa seems to be manageable, but more and more stories keep appearing about the players’ frustration with head coach Greg Schiano. And of course, winning is the best antidote for the problems the Bucs are facing. With the Cardinals coming to town, the Bucs at least have a chance to get a win.
Cardinals Season Record
The Cardinals haven’t gotten off to the start that everyone expected them to. In Week 1, the Cardinals lost a close game against the St. Louis Rams, one that they could have (and should have) won.
Then in Week 2, Arizona was able to defeat the Detroit Lions in another close game, but last Sunday the Saints manhandled the Cardinals, bringing their record to 1-2. Of course, the Cardinals play in a tough division, but a win against the Bucs could put them right back in the mix, especially since the San Francisco 49ers are currently struggling.
Cardinals on Offense
Quarterback Carson Palmer was arguably the Cardinals biggest offseason acquisition and he hasn’t played poorly early on, but he also hasn’t played up to expectations.
Top wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been hampered by a hamstring injury and the Cardinals lack depth at the receiver position. Furthermore, the running game hasn’t exactly been explosive. Running back Rashard Mendenhall is averaging only 3.9 yards per carry and his number two, Alfonso Smith, has only rushed for 54 yards through the first three games. The Cardinals like to throw it a lot and they will continue to do so as long as Fitzgerald is on the field.
Much like the Bucs, the Cardinals are currently stymied on offense because of injuries and inconsistent play, but Palmer is a veteran and has the ability to adapt.
Cardinals on Defense
However, on the defensive side of the ball, the Cardinals have been right around average, which while not great, is better than their offensive play. Currently the Cardinals are ranked 19th in the NFL, giving up an average of 370.3 yards per game. That number sounds high, but considering that the Cardinals have played the Lions and Saints, who both have high-powered offenses, it’s not that extreme.
Rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu has played extremely well on the defensive side for the Cardinals, as has veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby. On defense, the Cardinals rely heavily on the secondary including Mathieu and cornerback Patrick Peterson, so teams like to run the ball against Arizona. That might work out well for the Bucs who haven’t had much of a passing game through the first couple of weeks.
Cardinals Players to Watch
Larry Fitzgerald: Darrelle Revis will likely be matched up against Fitzgerald if he’s even able to play. That should certainly be an interesting matchup and will be Revis’ first real test.
Tyrann Mathieu: Mathieu is undersized for a safety and a rookie, but he is sort of a wildcard. He’s played well so far and will certainly be eyeing down Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman.
Carson Palmer: With the absence of a strong running game, the Cardinals’ offense goes as Palmer goes. If he has a good day, the Cardinals could easily run up the score.
Technically, the Bucs have a record of 9-8 all-time against the Cardinals, but are 3-2 against them since they’ve been the Arizona Cardinals. Schiano has never faced Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, so this will be another new challenge for the second-year head coach.
For more Bucs news and updates, visit Bucs Central.
Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. Max is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.