Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2 SU, 3-3 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (3-3 SU, 2-4 ATS), 4:15 pm EST, NFL Week 8, Sunday, October 31, 2010, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
By Scotty L of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: TB +3/Cards -3
Over/Under Total: 39.5
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The Buccaneers travel to desert to take on the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. Its fair to say both of these teams are a bit of surprise. Tampa Bay has already exceeded their 2009 win total, forging to a 4-2 record. With Atlanta at 5-2, they are in contention to win the NFC South in what would be a titanic upset. The Cardinals are not lighting the world on fire at 3-3, but have been surprisingly stubborn in staving off utter mediocrity in the midst of a quarterback crisis and massive personnel issues.
Tampa Bays tough and gritty play was on display on Sunday, as Cadillac Williams caught a touchdown pass with 17 seconds left to nip the Rams. This squad has a good feeling going now. Under new coach Raheem Morris, the Bucs started last season going 1-13. Since that inglorious beginning, Tampa Bay has won 6 of its last 8 games. After winning just 1 of its first 14 last season, you would have received big odds that theyd be a playoff contender the following season, but thats the position in which Tampa Bay now finds itself.
A lot of the on-the-field credit goes to 2nd-year quarterback Josh Freeman. The big 66 slinger is still only 22, but seems a different player this year. After throwing 10 touchdowns against 18 interceptions in 09, he now has 7 touchdowns and only 3 picks. He is taking what the game is giving to him, without forcing the issue. As a result, Tampa bay has an efficient, if not overly dynamic offense.
The Tampa Bay defense plays with a wide range of results, depending on the team theyre playing. They were lit up a bit in home losses to the Saints and the Steelers, but have been stout in their 4 wins. Run defense remains a concern, giving up 157 yards per gamegood for 30th in the league. Their secondary, however, has been sharp, with veteran Ronde Barber, Cody Grimm, Sean Jones, and Aqib Talib anchoring a solid crew that should see success against a struggling Arizona passing attack.
And thats the main difference between this Cardinals team and ones of the past several seasonsthe passing attack. Receivers are no longer catching mid-stride passes thrown by the precise Kurt Warner. Matt Leinart didnt work out, Derek Anderson was ho-hum, and the Cardinals finally settled on Max Hall. Give Hall some credit for beating the Saints in his first ever start, a nice stepping stone for a young rookie. The 2nd start didnt go so well, as Hall was pancaked on a sackleading to a concussion in a loss to Seattle on Sunday. Well have to see how he bounces back and responds to tests this week. I think its fair to say this team showed a bit more spark under Hall. Derek Anderson is a decent enough back-up, but has been lukewarm at best in the starting role.
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The offense has suffered as a whole. Running back Tim Hightower has only rushed for 298 yards. Larry Fitzgerald has only caught 29 balls for 331 yards. Steve Breaston and Early Doucet have either been hurt or otherwise unproductive. When you see that Arizona is near the bottom of the entire league in most pertinent offensive and defensive categories, its a bit surprising they have managed to go 3-3. Perhaps more than any other team, personnel changes have really left the Cardinals in tatters. At the same time, this is a resolute and well-coached team that has held up well despite the losses and instability at quarterback.
Maybe Tim Hightower can get his season rolling with some good runs at home against a leaky Bucs run-D. Expect Beanie Wells to start taking on a bigger role in the offense as well. In addition, once Max Hall gets clicking with a still-dangerous receiving crew, it would really breathe some life into this offense.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Rookie Mike Williams and tight end Kellen Winslow figure to get a lot of touches for Tampa on Sunday. Josh Freeman will be tested by the Arizona defense, but expect a wearing down performance, where the Buccaneers gain stronger foothold as the game progresses. The Buccaneers are playing with a lot of confidence. To rise from the depths of being 1-13 to where they are now covers a major emotional range. Expect them to be shot from a cannon this weekend and cover against the Cardinals. Take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers plus 3 points.