Bucs at Cardinals: Pewter Preview and Predictions
It’s GAME DAY at Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux – Come watch Bucs football all season long!
BUCCANEERS at CARDINALS
WHEN: Sunday, December 25, 2022 | WHERE: State Farm Stadium | KICK OFF: 8:20 p.m. ET | TV: NBC
GAME-BY-PLAY: Mike Tirico | ANALYST: Chris Collinsworth | NIJLINE: Melissa Strong
RADIO: 98 ROCK 97.9 FM | GAME-BY-PLAY: Gene Deckerhoff | ANALYST: David Moore | NIJLINE: TJ Rives
With game day approaching, it’s time for the Pewter Report staff to provide their weekly game predictions and our game preview of this week’s matchup. Let us know what you think in the article comments section and add your prediction as well.
Scott Reynolds: A Bucs win makes for a very Merry Christmas
The Bucs teased us last week with a commanding 17-3 halftime lead over the Bengals, only to have the Grinch show up in the third quarter and steal the holiday spirit from Tampa Bay. The Grinch was of course four turnovers and a turnover on downs that saw the Bucs beat the Bucs again. While spending Christmas Eve in an Arizona hotel room away from their families isn’t ideal for Tampa Bay, at least this team has something to play for. A victory over the Cardinals maintains at least a one-game division lead over Tampa Bay’s NFC South rivals. The 4-10 Cardinals have nothing to play for.
Perhaps the Bucs can build on what went well in the first half last week. Tampa Bay used loads of move and play action fakes to set up their annual point average in one half. Tom Brady has thrown four interceptions and lost two fumbles in the last two games combined. He and his teammates will have to play flawlessly against the Cardinals. Arizona has the worst scoring defense in the league, averaging 27 points per game. So there’s a chance for the Bucs to light up the scoreboard like a Christmas tree.
On defense, the Bucs must pressure Trace McSorley, a third-stringer getting his first start. Playing against inexperienced backup quarterbacks on the road hasn’t always gone well for the Tampa Bay (see losses in Carolina and San Francisco). But the Tampa Bay defense played really well against an attack from the elite in Cincinnati last week, which is a good sign. The Bucs have more to play for on Christmas Eve, and I think they’ll stop a two game loss and give Tampa Bay fans one last gift for the day with a win.
REYNOLDS’ GAME PREDICT: Bucs 23, Cardinals 17
REYNOLDS’ SEASON RECORD: 5-9
Matte Matera: Bucs give everyone a gift with a double-digit profit
Joy is needed in Tampa with the Bucs’ recent losses, but it can be found with a good performance at Christmas. Many ask Santa for a Bucs win on their Christmas list, and it’s set up so they can deliver. That said, the Bucs have other games where they haven’t used similar situations, so really any outcome wouldn’t be shocking.
We saw a lot of good in the first half for Tampa Bay last week, followed by a lot of terrible in the second half. What we learned, and many of us knew, is that Tampa Bay looks damn good when they put in play action and take advantage of first and second instead of settling for third and long. When the Bucs were aggressive, Tom Brady found Mike Evans further downfield and center. They can do the same on Sunday if the Cardinals hurt some of their top corners. And with Tristan Wirfs back, the Bucs can expect even better pass blocking for Brady, even with Donovan Smith out.
Tampa Bay can’t possibly lose to third-rate quarterback Trace McSorely, right? Tampa Bay has to put him under constant pressure no matter how it is generated or who pulls it off. You can’t take Arizona’s skill players lightly, but I love the matchup for Carlton Davis III against DeAndre Hopkins. Also helping is that Arizona doesn’t generate many big plays. They keep things underground, which plays right into Bucs’ hands. Any success they’ve found recently is flashing down the middle, so I’d like to see that continue. Add more playing time for Mike Edwards and maybe a return for Antoine Winfield Jr. and keeping Tampa Bay Arizona to just a few goals. Can Tampa Bay’s offense get to at least 20? I think they do just enough to get through.
MATERA’S GAME PREDICT: Bucs 20, Cardinals 10
MATERA’S SEASON RECORD: 6-8
JC Allen: Even after last week, I still believe in Brady and the Bucs
Last week I went out and was the only Pewter Reporter to choose the Bucs over the Bengals. And half of it made me feel pretty good about it. But then things spiraled out of control for Tampa Bay during the last 30 minutes and I’m sitting here with the same record of predictions as the Cardinals’ actual record. But even after being let down again, I haven’t lost hope in this Bucs team. I think they will head west to Arizona this weekend and come out of the holidays with a win – and a chance to take the division in next week.
Offensively, Tampa Bay really needs to do more of what they did in the first half against the Bengals. More game action and more movement helped them put up 17 points in the first two quarters, which matched their season average for points per game. But they came out of the locker room losing possession and poor play in the second half, getting away from what clicked in the beginning. Arizona’s defense is last in the league, allowing 26.6 points per game. Tampa Bay has had trouble getting points on the board, but I like their chances to expose some of the Cardinals’ weaknesses on Sunday.
And on defense, this has got to be the game where the Bucs do business against a young, inexperienced quarterback. Even though they’ve got some deranged pass rushers, they’ll need to get to Trace McSorley early and often, which may unsettle him in his first career start. If Tampa Bay can do that, play smart offensively and limit the penalties and mental errors all around, Christmas will be so much better for this team – and its fans.
ALLEN’S GAME PREDICT: Bucs 24, Cardinals 13
ALLEN’S SEASON REPORT: 4-10
Bailey Adams: Would the Bucs finally play well, qualify as a Christmas miracle?
The ridiculous thing about the state of the NFC South right now is that the Bucs could actually lose this game, fall to 6-9, and still win the division by beating the Panthers and Falcons to close out the season. But honestly if they can’t beat Trace McSorley and the 4-10 Cardinals on Sunday that would be three consecutive losses and I don’t think I would like their chances of bouncing back from that to win the next two . I don’t even want to consider that a possibility because a team led by Tom Brady going 6-9 could be a real crime. So it’s a good thing I like Tampa Bay in this game.
This team say should winning a game feels almost pointless these days. That said, Todd Bowles’ group should win this game. The defense played well enough to win last week, and that was against a prolific Bengals offense. This week, that unit has a decided advantage against a debuting quarterback in Trace McSorley — even with their ongoing problems against rookie and backup quarterbacks. I think the Tampa Bay defense is closing in and playing another good game, leaving the rest to Brady and the offense.
Offensively, Brady and Co. returning to what worked in the first half of last week’s game. More movement and more play action – and more Mike Evans. Arizona’s defense is allowing 26.6 points per game this season, the worst mark in the NFL. It’s time for Tampa Bay to finally put some points on the board. The Bucs are the better team here and as Nick Leverett said in the locker room last Sunday, they need to start playing like a first team. What better time for them to do that than at Christmas?
ADAMS’ GAME PREDICT: Bucs 27, Cardinals 17
ADAMS’ SEASON RECORD: 8-6
Josh Queipo: Bucs give a glimmer of hope as they try to make a playoff run
Talk about a Christmas present for the Bucs. To be able to play a game against a faltering Cardinals team starting their third-string quarterback for the first time. In addition, Arizona is facing a plethora of injuries to both their defensive secondary and their offensive line. Add to that the fact that despite the Bucs’ abysmal (6-8) record, they’re somehow still on top of the NFC South division with their playoff hopes firmly in their own control, and it feels like this is a Christmas miracle set in real life for the team.
And make no mistake, this is a game Tampa Bay should win easily. Arizona’s air raid offensive is struggling on an NFL level. The Cardinals’ talent level just doesn’t match here. While the Bucs themselves have injury concerns (outside linebacker, offensive tackle), they pale in comparison to what the Cardinals are dealing with.
And for one of the few times this year, I don’t see a clear coaching-level advantage between Tampa Bay and its opponents. I honestly see this as the first convincing win of the year since what, Dallas?
QUIPO’S GAME PREDICT: Bucs 27, Cardinals 13
QUIPO’S SEASON RECORD: 9-5
Kasey Hudson: The Best Christmas Present? Bucs doesn’t beat Bucs
Can the Bucs give the gift of not beating themselves on Sunday? Between Kyler Murray going out and Tristan Wirfs possible return, I would say the odds are in Tampa Bay’s favor to win. The Cardinals’ third string quarterback will go on to lead the team, but given his experience and results against the Broncos, I wouldn’t be surprised if Arizona leans into his run game.
The Cardinals have struggled to score more than one touchdown in their last two games. The lone touchdown of each game was credited to James Connor. When the secondary Bucs manage to restrain DeAndre Hopkins and Hollywood Brown, forcing Arizona to be one-dimensional and resorting to Connor, they finally get to master a game. Carlton Davis has played well this season and will hopefully build on last week’s performance against Ja’Marr Chase.
Tampa Bay has relied on the defense to set the tone for most of the season and while the Cardinals have only won four games, this isn’t a game where the forward can rely on the defense to carry them. Tom Brady and company must find the end zone and divide it evenly in the run-and-pass game. All we want for Christmas is to see if the Bucs can keep their foot on the gas for a change.
HUDSON’S GAME PREDICT: Bucs 21, Cardinals 13
HUDSON’S SEASON REPORT: 8-6
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