Week 6 America’s Game of the Week Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Arizona Cardinals Betting Advice
Published on October 12, 2017
Extra, Extra! Read all about it! Former League MVP Adrian Peterson is now a member of the Arizona Cardinals.
With Carson Palmer at 37 years old, Larry Fitzgerald at 34, and now Adrian Peterson at 32, the Arizona Cardinals are so old they should be renamed the AARP Cardinals.
Peterson, who spent the first ten years of his career with the Minnesota Vikings before joining the New Orleans Saints this past 2017 offseason, was traded to the Cardinals shortly after their Week 5 bye, in exchange for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
For the Saints, Peterson had been brought in as the putative #2 running back in a backfield captained by Mark Ingram.
But when third-round draft pick Alvin Kamara popped in the first quarter of the season and showed his immense potential as a 3rd-down change-of-pace back and a pass-catching option for Drew Brees out of the backfield, the Saints simply found themselves with too many backs to effectively utilize, and Peterson ended up the odd man out.
For the Cardinals, on the other hand, the situation was exactly the opposite. Instead of having too many backs, they had too few.
After losing star dual-threat running back David Johnson to a dislocated wrist in the first week of the season (Johnson, who led the league in yards from scrimmage last season by more than 200 yards and is now on IR not even able to return until November 9th at the earliest), the Cardinals brought in former Tennessee Titans standout Chris Johnson to shoulder some of the offensive load.
Enter Adrian Peterson, who will take the roster spot vacated by Chris Johnson and currently plans to wear the same number as Johnson wore, #23.
But the acquisition of Adrian Peterson isn’t nearly the most exciting thing about this game.
Even though Peterson is an established veteran, 32 years old, and one of the most intelligent players in the game, it’s simply not possible for a player to pick up an entire playbook in less than a week.
We have no doubt that Adrian Peterson should see the field on Sunday for the Week 6 edition of America’s Game of the Week, bringing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Glendale, Arizona to take on the Cardinals. But if Peterson does suit up and play, his opportunities will be extremely limited, to only the simplest run plays.
More exciting to us is the position that these two scrappy underdog teams find themselves in.
Though you might not immediately think of it, the Arizona Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a very similar position so far through five weeks of the 2017/18 NFL season.
Last year, the Bucs and the Cardinals both ended up second place in their division, with the Bucs winning 9 games even though they should have won 7, and the Cardinals winning 7 games even though they should have one 9.
Both teams fell victim to strange and unfortunate circumstances in the kicking game, which directly contributed to losses, and both teams have had similar snafus so far in 2017/18.
The Buccaneers missed out on a mid-season bye when their first game of the season was canceled due to a hurricane in Florida. Meanwhile, the Cardinals felt like their team got rocked by the hurricane when they lost star running back David Johnson in the first week of the season.
And now, with the Cardinals sitting at a disappointing 2–3 and the Buccaneers at an equally disappointing 2–2, both teams will be looking to get back on track against their doppelganger in Glendale on America’s Game of the Week.
And we’ve got you covered with all the information you need to make informed gambling decisions on the following types of wagers:
The Adrian Peterson experiment didn’t work out in New Orleans, but the Cardinals clearly have a need. Either way, even if we don’t end up seeing much of Peterson in his first week with the team, this game should be terribly fun to watch!
When picking games straight-up for moneyline odds, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the two teams match up holistically, in order to assign a mental advantage to one team or another.
In our experience, whichever team is able to remain mentally tough for the entire 60-minute contest – all the way till the final whistle blows – is usually able to limit the kind of mental mistakes that often cost games, and generally ends up winning.
On the other hand, when a team loses the momentum and loses their mental focus, they are liable to commit these costly errors. These errors include errant throws, dropped passes, missed blocking assignments, blown coverages, lost battles in the trenches, penalties, and a general lack of gap soundness and discipline on defense.
When enough of these mental errors accumulate, the momentum shifts, drives are ended, big plays are given up on defense, and generally, the game spirals more and more out of control.
In this game on Sunday afternoon, the mental advantage goes to the Buccaneers for multiple reasons.
First of all, we don’t foresee the game being significantly impacted by the fact that it is being played in Arizona. The Cardinals are already 1–1 at home through five games, and the Buccaneers have only played one of their four games on the road. So it’s impossible to say with certainty that one team or another will receive a significant boost from the game being played in Arizona.
On the side of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, last week’s game against the New England Patriots saw them lose defensive players seemingly one after another, with safety Keith Tand, defensive back T. J. Ward, cornerback Robert McClain, linebacker Kwon Alexander, cornerback Josh Robinson, and linebacker Lavonte David either held out of the Thursday Night matchup or injured during.
The Bucs started to run out of warm bodies on defense going against the Patriots last Thursday.
Luckily for the team, the 10 days rest should make them healthier, and the fact that the vast majority of their injuries are on the defensive side of the ball means that their offensive attack should be essentially unaffected, and they should be able to score points at a healthy clip against the Cardinals.
For Arizona, on the other hand, the injuries have hit them hard on the offensive side of the ball, and have significantly changed their identity.
First and most important was the injury to David Johnson, mentioned above, which has fundamentally changed the offensive identity for Arizona. Last year, the entire offense went through Johnson, and the team relied on him as both their leading rusher (by over 250 carries) and their second-leading receiver (only 27 carries fewer than their leader, Larry Fitzgerald, and over double their next-highest WR).
And now, not only is David Johnson – essentially half of the Cardinals’ entire offense – just gone, but on top of that the Cardinals have also seen multiple offensive linemen receive injuries in recent weeks.
Offensive guard Mike Iupati has landed on injured reserve for an elbow injury and is not eligible to return until Week 12 at the earliest. Offensive tackle D. J. Humphries is listed on the injury report as “questionable” with a sprained right knee. And offensive guard Alex Boone is also listed as “questionable” with a strained pectoral muscle, a difficult injury for offensive linemen to cope with.
Though it’s unclear what the Cardinals’ starting five will be against the Bucs, it doesn’t look good.
Backup players make more mistakes than starters; if they didn’t they would be the starters and not the backups. With offensive line (and particularly offensive tackle) the foundation for any successful offensive scheme, having backups in significantly alters a team’s ability to move the ball on offense, score points, and keep the momentum.
The two quarterbacks that we’re going to see in this Week 6 edition of America’s Game of the Week have been known over the last two seasons to be very up and down.
For Carson Palmer, the difficulty is age: At 37 years old, Palmer’s mobility is limited, and his arm strength and accuracy is nowhere near where it used to be. For Jameis Winston, the difficulty is also age, but in the opposite direction: at 23 years old, Winston’s decision-making has been suspect, and he has a long way to go in terms of reading defenses and diagnosing schemes.
Looking at the point of the season that these two teams are at, we believe that both are going to come out looking at this game as a “must win.”
However, with both defenses playing poorly (the Buccaneers because of injuries, the Cardinals because of personnel), the key to a team being able to stay on the field and create a mental advantage will be offensive production.
And with the Cardinals having lost their best player and with a banged-up offensive line, we foresee the Buccaneers being able to make more plays on offense, and thus gaining momentum and a mental advantage by playing with a lead.
Pick: Buccaneers to win
Having established our pick for the Buccaneers to win because of injuries to David Johnson and the Cardinals’ offensive line, it’s now time for us to turn our attention to the question of whether we believe that Buccaneers have what it takes to win by more than 2 points.
In picking games against the spread, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s offense matches up against the losing team’s defense.
In our experience, when a team has an excellent matchup on offense against the opposing defense, they are usually able to score enough points to win against the spread. On the other hand, when the opposing defense matches up well against the winning team’s offense, the game often ends up close and the losing team can usually pull off a backdoor cover.
In this game, the key matchup to watch for the spread bet is the Bucs’ offense vs. the Cardinals’ D.
As we mentioned above, the key to any offensive attack is the matchup between the offensive line and the opposing defensive front seven. When a team is able to give the quarterback time to throw in pass protection and able to create holes in the run game, this opens up the playbook, keeps them in favorable down and distance, and generally provides the foundation for offensive production.
So far through five games, the Arizona Cardinals have a measly 10 sacks, tied for 5th-worst in the league, and a full 50% of those sacks have come from one player: former New England Patriots linebacker Chandler Jones. After notching 11 sacks last year, in his first season with Arizona, Jones looks poised to attain his fourth 10+ sack season in 2017/18.
Given the fact that Chandler Jones spends the majority of his time rushing the passer off the backside, he will primarily matchup on Sunday against Buccaneers’ left tackle Donavan Smith.
Now in his third season with the team, Donovan Smith has yet to miss a single game, and is part of a unit that has given up just seven sacks so far through the Buccaneers’ four games. And what’s more, two of those sacks came against the New England Patriots last week on Thursday Night Football, and neither of them was the fault of the O-line.
With the Cardinals unable to generate a strong pass rush in this game, Winston will have time to throw.
You would think that this would open up opportunities for the Bucs to get the ball to star wide receiver, Mike Evans, who last season finished 4th in the league in yards (with 1,321), tied for 2nd in the league in touchdowns (with 12), and 1st in the league in first downs gained by a wide margin (81 to the next-closest 66), despite not even being in the top 5 in receptions.
So far this season, Mike Evans has slowed his pace. Despite the fact that the Cardinals are ranked #3 in the league in average passing yards (with 288 per game), Evans has only 276 yards and 2 TDs.
The reason for this is simple: Patrick Peterson. Cardinals’ cornerback Patrick Peterson is easily one of the best players in the league, having been voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his first six seasons in the league so far, with 20 career interceptions and 66 career passes defended.
In a league that has moved rapidly towards having bigger and stronger wide receivers, the six-foot 220-pound Peterson is the Cardinals’ answer, and whoever he matches up against almost always ends up getting blanketed so bad that they are not even targeted. Despite the lack of targets, Peterson has already broken up two passes this season and will be hungry to get his 1st interception in this game.
If the Buccaneers are going to move the ball through the air, it will be with tight end Cameron Brate.
So far this young season, Cameron Brate ranks out at 8th in the league in receiving yards among tight ends (with 205 yards), despite the fact that he has played one fewer game than most of the other tight ends in the league, and he has scored a touchdown in three consecutive games.
Since the start of last season, Brate leads the league in touchdowns among tight ends, with 11. But he’ll have a stiff test in this game, going against the Cardinals’ dynamic hybrid safety Tyrann Mathieu.
If there’s one thing that the Cardinals have been able to do well so far this season, it’s been to stand up tight ends, and Tyrann Mathieu is one of the biggest reasons why. With 24 tackles, 3 TFLs, a sack, an interception, and 2 passes defended already, Mathieu’s lightning quickness and his presence in the slot helps the Cardinals match up well against teams that utilize two-tight end sets, such as the Buccaneers.
Last week against the New England Patriots, in his first game back from suspension, franchise running back Doug Martin notched 74 yards and a touchdown on only 13 carries (an average of 5.7 yards). It was clear watching the game that his presence on the field and his fresh legs provided a spark to the Bucs offense, and considering the fact that they rank #27 in the league in rushing offense, they need him.
We foresee the Bucs renewing their commitment to the run game against a struggling Arizona defense that gave up 122 yards on the ground to the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
So far through four games, the Buccaneers have been throwing the ball on 64.3% of their offensive snaps, which gives young Jameis Winston too many opportunities to make mistakes. With Martin going to be more and more integrated into the game plan, we like the Bucs to start playing much more complementary football, which will open up the entire playbook and help the Bucs score lots of points.
Pick: Buccaneers to win by more than 2
Having established our prediction for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to pick up a win on the road due to the inability of the Arizona Cardinals to score points on offense, and having seen how well the Buccaneers match up against the Cardinals on offense, let’s now turn our attention to the question of whether this game should be generally high- or low-scoring.
In picking games for the total score over/under bet, our philosophy involves looking to see the way the winning team’s defense matches up against the losing team’s offense.
In our experience, when the winning team is both able to score enough points on offense to win against the spread and able to generate stops on defense, they will generally be able to control the flow of the game and the time of possession to the degree that the game will often go under.
On the other hand, when the losing team matches up well enough on offense against the winning team’s defense to score points, the game can often turn into a shootout that pushes the total score over.
In this game, the key matchup to watch is between the Buccaneers’ defense and the Cardinals’ offense.
As we mentioned above, the foundation of all offensive production starts in the trenches, and for the Cardinals, it hasn’t been a pretty story.
In part due to the injuries to the offensive line that we mentioned in the section above, Carson Palmer has been sacked a whopping 19 times in these first five games of the 2017/18 NFL season, which is tied with Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers for the most in the league.
Not only has the 30-year old veteran struggled to make the adjustment this season from left tackle to right, but he also had to leave last week’s game against the Eagles due to injury (though he did return to the game).
Capitalizing on this weakness at the right tackle position of Arizona will be Buccaneers’ defensive end, Will Gholston. Though known more for his abilities to set an edge and stop the run, rather than a big-time pass rusher, the tape on Gholston does show a formidable bull rush, an attack that Veldheer has been particularly vulnerable to.
With the Cardinals unable to offer Carson Palmer significant protection, there will be a lot of short passes.
Naturally, given the fact that David Johnson was the 2nd-highest pass catcher for Arizona last season (in terms of total receptions), it’s clear that the short passing game is a feature in the Arizona offense. And even in Johnson’s absence this season, the same has held true: the average amount of yards per reception for Carson Palmer has dipped below the league average, at 6.4 yards per reception.
Picking up the slack for the Cardinals in the short passing game this season has been running back Andre Ellington, who currently has 28 of the Cardinals’ 136 total receptions this season.
Ellington has provided Carson Palmer a safety blanket so far this season, whether through designed screen passes or check-down dump-offs, and this combined with the always spectacular production of Larry Fitzgerald is the primary reason why the Cardinals rank so high in passing offense so far.
With injuries in the Buccaneers’ safety unit, rookie safety Justin Evans has been pressed into service.
Drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Justin Evans has made the most of his opportunities so far, getting his first start in the Cardinals’ Thursday Night Football matchup against the Patriots last week and playing well, with a total of nine tackles and an interception.
In his limited playing time, Evans has demonstrated himself to be a physical player that can converge quickly into the box and play physical at the line of scrimmage, making him a good matchup for pass-catching backs like Andre Ellington. If starters Keith Tandy and T. J. Ward are unable to go in this game, rookie Evans will be a key player to watch against the Cardinals’ short passing attack.
When you think about young players like Justin Evans, it’s obvious how important live game experience is in congealing a defense together.
After missing their first game of the season due to the hurricane in Florida (which no doubt limited the ability of the team to continue their training camp practice schedule) and following this with multiple key starters missing time, the Buccaneers have yet to really put it all together on D.
But this time, after 10 days rest, we say the Bucs put it together.
Pick: Cardinals 17, Buccaneers 24
Now that we’ve established our pick for the Arizona Cardinals to lose this game at home because of their injuries on the offensive side of the ball, for the Bucs to start playing complementary football and score a lot of points, and for the Bucs defense to start getting healthier and keep the Cardinals from scoring, let’s see if we can’t profit off of this prediction for the game by investing in prop bets.
Specifically, we believe that the following bets could potentially hold value:
In addition to the three bets above that, we will be able to watch unfold live during the game, we would also direct your attention to the following future bets:
Veteran gamblers know that it’s not enough to simply watch games as a fan. It’s important to always keep an eye out while you’re watching game film for any clues that might tip you off for future bets that you might make down the line. Keep an eye out for the bets above, and thank us later.
One of the biggest news stories of Week 6 in the National Football League is that Adrian Peterson has been traded from the New Orleans Saints to the Arizona Cardinals. However, as Peterson will need time to learn the playbook, we don’t foresee him having an impact on this Week 6 edition of America’s Game of the Week, which will send the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Glendale, Arizona to take on the Cardinals.
We believe that the Buccaneers will hold the momentum in this game because the injuries to David Johnson and along the Cardinals’ offensive line will render Arizona unable to score points on offense. With the return of Doug Martin, the Bucs should be back to playing complementary football, so we see them scoring a lot of points, and if their defense is healthier, they should keep Arizona from scoring.
In order to profit off of this view of the game, here are our best bets.
Both teams that ended up finishing second place in their division last year and now find themselves with two wins at Week 6, the Bucs and the Cardinals should bring their A-game to this Sunday afternoon showdown on America’s Game of the Week. And we can’t wait to see it play out.