Sunday October 31st, 2010 4:15 PM EST
Line: Arizona -3
The Cardinals and Bucs have both overachieved due to a weak schedule.
The Bucs have won four games without sniffing a victory against the two winning opponents they have faced. The Cardinals had a signature win when they knocked off the Saints, but followed that victory with a loss to Seattle after a bye week.
The Cardinals have a legitimate shot at retaining the NFC West title, even being as hit or miss as they have been. It is hard to believe that after this game, one of these teams is going to have a winning record going into Week 9.
Keys to the Game
- Josh Freeman has become renowned in Tampa Bay for his come-from-behind victories. Freeman has proven that when his team is in a position to win, he can be trusted with the ball in his hands. The Bucs will most certainly be in a position to win when they face Arizona, so it will be interesting to see if Freeman can add to his legacy as a come-from-behind quarterback. Freeman hasn’t been spectacular throughout the course of the game, but when it is crunch time, he looks outstanding. Once Tampa Bay actually surrounds him with play-makers, Freeman could make a career out of his new game-winning drive habit.
- Picking between Derek Anderson and Max Hall is like playing Russian Roulette with a loaded gun. Ken Whisenhunt made the wrong move by cutting Matt Leinart. Derek Anderson looks terrible and Max Hall looks even worse. Neither one of them can utilize Larry Fitzgerald, which is frightening from an offensive standpoint. The Cardinals aren’t going to find the next Kurt Warner in some undrafted rookie free agent who limped onto the roster, nor are they going to find it in a one-hit wonder with happy feet and a 68.7 career quarterback rating. If I was the Cardinals, I would go with Anderson. He isn’t pretty, to say the least, but at least he has the experience. Max Hall isn’t the present or the future at quarterback. The Cardinals have a shot at winning their division. It is scary that the job security of the starting quarterback is not only in danger week to week, it is up for grabs drive to drive. Whisenhunt needs to make a call and live with his decision.
- The Cardinals are last in the league at throwing the ball, so they will need to run the ball effectively to be successful. The Bucs struggle against the run, allowing 157.7 yards a game on the ground. The Cardinals need to get the ball in the hands of Beanie Wells. While Tim Hightower is having a much better year than Wells is, Wells is set for a breakout game. He needs to stop running like he is looking for a place to fall down. Wells is massive and should never be tackled on first contact. With the holes the Bucs are going to present Wells with, he could be looking at his first 100-yard game of the season.
- There are ten tight ends and one running back who have more receiving yards than Larry Fitzgerald. Not only can you kiss Fitzgerald’s season goodbye, as the Cardinals have made no improvement at quarterback, Fitzgerald is unlikely to remain in Arizona. If Fitzgerald hopes to return to the Super Bowl, break a couple of Jerry Rice’s record along the way, and wind up in the Hall of Fame one day, he can’t have his career in the hands of the quarterback debacle in Arizona. Larry Fitzgerald is appealing to a number of teams who have a solid quarterback situation. Fitzgerald could even be successful on a team like Jacksonville, who at least has a quarterback who could get the ball into his hands. The Cardinals are throwing the ball his way, they just aren’t connecting. It is going to take a lot to keep him and if I were Arizona, I would do whatever I can to to make him happy.
The Cardinals and Bucs are both going to end up under .500 this year. I don’t think either one is playoff-bound, but the Cardinals are going to draw the short stick in this one, because of their horrendous quarterback situation.
The Bucs will emerge as a 5-2 team and then watch their season crumble as they face the strength of their schedule. For now, they should enjoy beating the Cardinals on the road while Ken Whisenhunt wishes he had a quarterback who had half the talent of Josh Freeman.
Tampa Bay wins outright.
Free NFL Pick: Tampa Bay +3