The 6-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the 4-10 Arizona Cardinals in Glendale on Christmas night. It’s a crucial game for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. They are still first in the NFC South division with a losing record. All three other divisional teams, the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, are one game behind with a 5-9 record. If the Cardinals can give the Buccaneers the NFL equivalent of coal for Christmas with a loss, the Buccaneers could potentially end up tied for first with two games remaining. Here’s a breakdown of what to watch for and the keys for the Cardinals to win.
Players To Watch
Lavonte David, MLB – Buccaneers
Lavonte David is a unique talent and is now top-ten on the Buccaneers’ all-time sack list. Last week against the Bengals, David strip-sacked Burrow. While Burrow recovered his fumble, it still shows the kind of impact David can have on the game. He could disrupt Arizona’s offense.
Chris Godwin, WR – Buccaneers
Chris Godwin has been becoming increasingly healthy as each week has passed. He has been playing his best football as of late; last week, Godwin had eight receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown. He seems to be getting back to the Godwin we saw before last year’s ACL injury. The Cardinals’ defense is susceptible to elite playmakers as they don’t have a consistent secondary. Godwin could feast in this matchup.
Budda Baker, SS – Cardinals
Baker is the leader of the Cardinals’ defense and one of the best safeties in the NFL. He had an interception last week but will have his work cut out for him this week. With receiving threats like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Baker will have to limit their deep plays. He’s also a solid run-stopper for his position and will have to help stop Fournette and White.
Marquise Brown, WR – Cardinals
“Hollywood” Brown had just four receptions for 19 yards last week. He had eight targets, so the Cardinals were trying to get him involved, but he couldn’t get into a rhythm. Whether it’s Colt McCoy or Trace McSorley under quarterback, Brown will have to have a better connection with them if the Cardinals want to have a shot at pulling off the upset.
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Cardinals’ Keys To The Game
Stopping The Run
Last week, the Cardinals’ defense gave up 130 yards rushing and a touchdown to Latavius Murray. It won’t get any easier for them this week, as the Buccaneers have a dynamic one-two punch in veteran Leonard Fournette and rookie Rachaad White. Tom Brady also loves throwing to his running backs on check downs, so limiting their pass-catching opportunities and yards after the catch (YAC) will be imperative.
A huge reason why the Cardinals lost last week was the fact that their quarterbacks, Colt McCoy and Trace McSorley, combined for three interceptions. Colt McCoy is in concussion protocol for this week and is day-to-day. Regardless if McCoy or McSorley is starting, they will have to do a better job limiting their turnovers. You can’t give Tom Brady and the Buccaneers’ offensive weapons short-field position.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Cardinals are four-and-a-half-point underdogs at home. They expect a low-scoring game, with the over/under point total listed at 41. The Cardinals are arguably a bottom-five team in the league without Kyler Murray and just lost to the now 4-10 Broncos. It’s quite the disappointing turnaround from last year’s playoff team.
The Buccaneers are more talented on both sides of the ball. I’m going with Tom Brady and company, especially given the importance of the game for the Buccaneers.
Cardinals: 17 Buccaneers: 23