It was another bad loss for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday for the second week in a row. Everyone will want to get the sour taste out of their mouth and move on to the Bucs next game. This will be a Christmas Day matchup in Arizona against the Cardinals.
The Cardinals have had their fair share of struggles this season. They enter this game with a 4-10 record and recently lost star quarterback Kyler Murray for the season due to injury. This makes for a perfect bounce back game for Tampa Bay.
Will this be the get right game the Bucs desperately need? Or will this be another flop against a less talented team? Here’s what I’ll be watching for.
DeAndre Hopkins vs Carlton Davis
This might be the most fun individual matchup we see this Sunday. DeAndre Hopkins has established himself as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. He is a five time Pro Bowler and a three time All Pro.
In normal circumstances, Hopkins is a matchup problem regardless of who the quarterback is. Not many corners in the league can handle his size, skill and excellent hands. However, Davis is the type of corner who can.
Davis thrives against this type of receiver. We saw this last week against Ja’Marr Chase, who has a similar skillset, and in previous games against Hopkins. Davis has the size and physicality at the line of scrimmage to really limit big receivers with modest NFL speed.
Trace McSorley vs Buccaneers’ Defense
The Cardinals are down to their third string quarterback, Trace McSorley. This should be an obvious advantage for the Bucs, despite having lost to a third string quarterback just two weeks ago. But this is a very different situation.
Arizona is a much less functional team than we saw with San Francisco (and third string quarterback Brock Purdy). This offense will ask more of its quarterback and the Cardinals have fewer weapons to take pressure off. This has the makings of a great day for the Bucs defense and I expect them to live up to that.
Todd Bowles will likely put pressure on McSorley, forcing him to get the ball out quick or take sacks. This will likely be the latter considering the team that is around him. It’s also very likely that this leads to turnovers as well.
This is a game where the Buccaneers defense should shine and I absolutely expect them to do so.
Tom Brady vs The Middle Of The Field
This Cardinals defense isn’t very good on paper, but they do have some interesting players in the middle. Isaiah Simmons is a hybrid linebacker and nickel defender. He is very fast and can make plays vs the run and pass.
A similar rare athlete also plays linebacker in Arizona. Zaven Collins is 6’4 and 260 lbs, but has an off ball linebacker skillset. He’s someone who can’t be underestimated and can be deceptive with how well he moves.
Tom Brady loves to attack the middle of the field with Chris Godwin. That may prove to be difficult this week going against these weird, talented hybrid athletes. Brady must be careful as to not extend his streak of turnovers.
The Cardinals aren’t a good team. There’s a reason they have a 4-10 record and that was with star quarterback Kyler Murray playing for most of the year. Now without him, it’s hard to imagine Arizona posing much of a threat.
Granted, the Buccaneers have lost to some lousy teams this year and have not been impressive with their 6-8 record. Despite that, I think this is a game they should be in complete control of. Especially if they can channel the first half offense we saw against Cincinnati last week.
Buccaneers – 23
Cardinals – 13
The Bucs Report/Sports Talk Florida Pregame Show
Betting odds provided by UnitedGamblers.com