The Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in a game many Bucs’ fans penciled in as a win coming into the season. But with a change at quarterback and injuries at receiver, there is reason to doubt the outcome of the matchup.
So to get an outsider’s perspective, I was allowed some time to ask Shaun Church of Bleacher Report and Revenge of the Birds some questions about the Cards, and how they’ll stack up against the Bucs on Sunday. Here’s what he had to say. Have any comments for him? You can find him on Twitter here.
Leo - Vincent Jackson was injured against the Patriots and his status is in doubt for Sunday. Even if he plays, he’ll be going up against what seems like a talented defensive backfield. Considering that the Buccaneers have two receiving threats at most, how do you believe the Cardinals match up with the Buccaneers in the passing game?
Shaun - The Cardinals have struggled so far this season at defending the pass. They have allowed quarterbacks to complete 66.7 percent of passes while tossing seven touchdowns to just two interceptions for a 102.05 passer rating.
It hasn’t been pretty back there despite having talented cornerbacks.
Patrick Peterson will let out a sigh of relief if Vincent Jackson is out Sunday. Peterson is one of two corners who currently own a perfect opposing passer rating against him (Tarell Brown of the 49ers is the other). He’s a great corner, but he’s been picked on this season by some great receivers.
That said, Tampa’s quarterback situation and potential loss of Jackson makes this a push in the passing game.
Leo - By now, everyone knows that Mike Glennon will be starting at quarterback for the Buccaneers. He’s tall and has a decent arm, but he’s quite slow. Is there any kind of reliable pass rush for the Cardinals that he will be faced with on Sunday?
Shaun - The pass rush for Arizona was already lacking sustainability, but last weekend in New Orleans they lost starting outside linebackers Sam Acho (broken leg) and Lorenzo Alexander (Lisfranc injury) for the season.
Then on top of that, just two days later they lost rookie outside linebacker Alex Okafor (torn biceps) for the year.
There should be zero worry about the pass rush by Glennon and Co. because of this. John Abraham has been a non-factor thus far, but he will likely start due to the injuries.
As a team, the Cardinals have five sacks on the season—that includes four last week of Drew Brees. It’s not looking good for Arizona, as the Bucs have allowed seven sacks on the year.
Leo - Doug Martin has had a quiet but productive start to the season. With a rookie under center, the Bucs will rely on him heavily. So how do the Cardinals matchup with the running game?
Shaun - If there’s one thing that will help the Cardinals Sunday, it’s that they have a stout run defense. To date, they have the No. 9 Defensive Rusher Rating, according to Cold, Hard Football Facts—if you’re unfamiliar with CHFF and the Quality Stats they use, I recommend heading over there to check it out. They are quietly leading the charge in unconventional football statistics, and most of the stats they use employ simple formulas and easy-to-understand reasoning.
They are also No. 4 in rush yards per carry allowed, at just 3.24 YPC.
This could be a tough day for Martin and the rushing attack, which will put added pressure on Glennon. Could be a tough day all around for Tampa’s offense.
Leo - There has been plenty of talk in Tampa about how poorly Darrelle Revis is being used by the defensive schemes of Greg Schiano, but there’s a less than zero chance that he’ll focus on Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday. How do you believe that Cardinals’ offense can cope with Fitzgerald locked down by Revis?
Shaun - This is the matchup to watch Sunday, and for obvious reasons. Revis and Fitz have faced each other once before, in 2008 when the Cardinals traveled to play the New York Jets. Fitz was targeted four times, recording two receptions for 20 yards.
Revis picked off Kurt Warner in coverage of Fitzgerald, so you can call Round 1 in favor of the talented corner.
That said, Arizona has other weapons at its disposal in the likely event that Fitzgerald’s targets are down this week. Second-year wideout Michael Floyd and veteran Andre Roberts have been solid early on, and they could be big Sunday. Add in speedy tight end Rob Housler, who will play in his second game coming off a hamstring injury, and quarterback Carson Palmer has a myriad of options other than No. 11 from which to choose.
Leo - Give us your prediction for the game and a headline that we’ll be discussing after the game.
Shaun - I predicted this matchup in favor of the home team for you guys back in July, but given the recent events that led to Greg Schiano making a quarterback change, I subsequently have changed my pick.
Speaking from experience, quarterback dilemmas do not go over well in any aspect. The Cardinals suffered through some of the worst quarterback play in NFL history last season, and it appears Tampa is headed that way this year, unfortunately.
That’s going to be your headline. I don’t believe the decision this early in the season to change quarterbacks will go well.
Arizona wins this one in low-scoring fashion.