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Bucs picks: Expect a quarterback duel at Raymond James

Bucs-Cardinals predictions: Tampa Bay hosts a team that may be its offensive equal.
Look for an aerial show when Arizona's Kyler Murray and Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston meet up Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. [Associated Press]
Published Nov. 8
Updated Nov. 8

The Bucs, desperate to snap their four-game losing streak, will do what they always do: turn to Jameis Winston for aerial efficiency and leadership.

This time, the chances of that game plan succeeding appear to be a bit higher thanks to one added ingredient: Bucs fans. Tampa Bay returns home after the scheduling nightmare that took them away from Raymond James Stadium for seven weeks. They have to hope a cheering throng will boost Winston, receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and running back Ronald Jones.

Why the emphasis on offense? Well, the Bucs defense has yet to slow down anyone. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles says its more mental than physical. If that’s true, and the youthful Tampa Bay ball hawks curb the mistakes, Arizona could be in troubles.

The Times sports staff envisions just such an outcome.

Home cooking will result in a winning meal

Rick Stroud, Bucs beat writer @NFLStroud: This appears as though it could be a high-scoring game, which is par for the course lately for the Bucs who are allowing 31.5 points per game. Tampa Bay hasn’t played a game in Raymond James Stadium in seven weeks, so not having to get on an airplane will be a lift psychologically. Don’t sleep on the Cardinals, however. They gave the 8-0 San Francisco 49ers all they could handle in a loss last Sunday. Rookie Kyler Murray makes great decisions with the football as evidenced by his four interceptions this season. He also is very accurate and can make plays with his legs. Not many players remain from coach Bruce Arians’ Cardinals teams, but it will still be an emotional reunion for many of them. Quarterback Jameis Winston is coming off his best game of the season and has something to build on. A win before Thanksgiving would be nice for Bucs fans. This is a toss up game to me but I think the Bucs will love the home cooking. Bucs 30-27

Winston, Murray will be primary against these secondaries

Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer, @EddieintheYard: Expect this to be a high-scoring game. The Cardinals allow 407.6 yards per game, which is third-most in the league. And we already know that the Bucs have given up points in bunches with a pass defense that has allowed 293.5 yards a game, ranking 31st of the 32 NFL teams. The Bucs are well aware of what rookie quarterback Kyler Murray can do, and like the quarterback they faced last week, Seattle’s Russell Wilson, he’s not going to make many mistakes. It will be interesting how much the Cardinals attempt to establish the run considering they’re getting David Johnson back from injury and trade acquisition Kenyan Drake is coming off a 115-yard game in his first start. The Bucs just allowed their first 100-yard rusher last week, but are still the league’s best at stopping the run. I want to see some growth from Tampa Bay’s young secondary after last week. The Cardinals have just seven takeaways on the season — including two interceptions — so expect the Bucs offense to get aggressive in the air against Arizona. Bucs 35-31

Turnover statistics favor Tampa Bay

Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter, @tometrics: As it turns out, Russell Wilson was only the beginning. Long after the MVP completed his final pass against the Bucs last Sunday, Tampa Bay’s defensive backs continued to get picked apart by fans and media. The good news is they’re young, and they’ll get better (probably). The bad news? As Dirk Koetter used to say, “Your guys are your guys.” There is no quick fix. The Cardinals pass defense, though, might be in worse shape. It has allowed a 118.4 passer rating, the highest in the NFL. The wild card, as always, is Jameis Winston, who leads the NFL in interceptions. Fortunately for him, takeaways aren’t Arizona’s forte. The Cardinals have intercepted passes at a league-low rate (0.6 percent). Bucs 29-25

Avoid turnovers, because Murray does

Mike Sherman, sports editor, @mikesherman: In his second NFL start, Kyler Murray gave the Ravens a scare, throwing for 349 yards and no interceptions on 40 attempts in a 23-17 loss at Baltimore. He’s gone five starts without an interception, spanning 150 attempts. Message: Don’t count on a lot of extra possessions, Bucs. But I’m taking note of the disadvantage for teams from the west coming east for 1 p.m., and Tampa Bay finally coming home. It also feels like the Bucs offense should be a tad more explosive with Ronald Jones as the lead back. Bucs 27-21

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (26) is part of a young core of defensive backs the Bucs hope will solve their long-running pass defense problems. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    John Romano: Could Sean Murphy-Bunting and the young Bucs finally be the answer?
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon III Hargreaves kneels in the end zone after a Nov. 13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He was cut by the Bucs and picked up by the Texans. JOHN FROSCHAUER  |  AP
    A day after the Bucs release the former first-round pick, he finds a home.
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith, seen here celebrating after breaking up a pass during a preseason game against the Miami Dolphins, was dismayed that fellow cornerback Vernon Hargreaves was released by the Bucs. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    The reaction to the release of the former 2016 first-round pick ranged from dismay to acceptance.
  4. Bucs punter Bradley Pinion (8) and his wife, launched their "Punts for Pups" program in partnership with the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center where they'll sponsor a dog for every punt he kicks within the 20-yard line. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The Buccaneers punter and his wife will cover the fees of adopting a dog at the shelter every time he drops a punt inside the 20.
  5. Nearly 40 high school teams, including Durant and Sickles, and more than 1,000 girls participated in the Bucs inaugural flag football tournament earlier this year. Now the team has created an academic scholarship fund for girls who play. Buccaneers.com
    The team’s foundation has created a national scholarship fund for girls who play football.
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (27) enters the field at Raymond James Stadium before the start of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, November 10, 2019, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Last week’s game at Raymond James was the lowest-attended Bucs game in the stadium’s history. What’s your take on dwindling attendance?
  7. Vernon Hargreaves was the Bucs' first-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft. On Tuesday, the Bucs released him. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    Rick Stroud: He didn’t hustle and they didn’t want to be hustled
  8. Linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59) and the Houston Texans will play the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 21. ERIC CHRISTIAN SMITH  |  AP
    The league previously left the game’s date and time undetermined.
  9. Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett runs past Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III in a game earlier this month. Before being released by the team Tuesday, Hargreaves produced one interception, four passes defensed and 39 tackles in nine games. SCOTT EKLUND  |  AP
    With the team releasing Vernon Hargreaves, only one of the seven players selected by Tampa Bay remains on the current roster
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon III Hargreaves (28) on the field during warmups before the Bucs game against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium on September 8, 2019 in Tampa, FL. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Tampa Bay selected the former Florida Gators and Wharton High star with the 11th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft.
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