Tampa Bay's afternoon on the bayou just got a lot more complicated than it was already shaping up to be. After losing on Monday night, the Buccaneers first loss of the season, a divisional matchup with the Saints awaits with high stakes on the line.
It's only the fourth week of the season and just the first meeting between Tampa Bay and New Orleans, but it's a game that could swing momentum in the NFC South. A win by the Bucs would send them into their bye week with a 3-1 record, at least a share of the lead in the division, and with something to wash the taste of Monday's loss to the Eagles out of their mouths with.
A loss, though, would sink the Bucs to 2-2 and force the team to take a hard look at what is going wrong before things get out of control. All offseason the Bucs wwere buried by pundits, which is what made the 2-0 start feel even better than it already did; dropping to 2-2 would open them back up to harsh criticism.
One major variable heading into Sunday was the health of Saints quarterback Derek Carr. He left Week 3's loss to the Packers with a shoulder injury that initially looked like it would knock him out for at least this week's game if not longer.
Carr wasn't ruled out for Sunday, though, and as the week went on he was trending closer and closer to playing.
Is Derek Carr playing today vs. Buccaneers?
While it was looking like Jameis Winston would be in line to start this week, it turns out Carr will be under center instead. According to Saints beat writer Jeff Duncan, Carr didn't feel any pain in his shoulder during the team's walk-through over the weekend and is good to go on Sunday.
Nobody is every rooting for someone to be injured, and hearing that Carr made a miraculous recovery after how bad the initial injury looked is good on a human level. From a football perspective, it shifts momentum back in the favor of New Orleans, who now gets to start the guy it's paying $150 million for exact situations like the one on Sunday.
Carr was signed to give the Saints the boost they've been missing at quarterback ever since Drew Brees retired. He instantly became the best quarterback in the division and he was brought in to win games like the one against Tampa Bay where so much is on the line.
The Bucs might have preferred to play against Winston, but hiding from a matchup against Carr is a loser's mentality. What makes Carr starting troublesome for the Bucs is the fact that Jamel Dean is out and Carlton Davis is banged up, meaning the Saints are bringing out their best against a secondary that is fighting for its life in Tampa Bay.