GameDay for Tampa Bay in the Desert

(Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire)

GLENDALE, AZ- What’s At Stake

Well, let’s start with a place in the national football conversation. Seriously, if Tampa Bay beats the Cardinals, not only will they be 2-0, but they will have beaten a team that many thought was a legitimate contender for the Super Bowl. That will force the Bucs into the national spotlight. It will also spark a lot of conversation about what’s wrong with the Cardinals, who will have lost to the Patriots and Bucs to start the season, but eventually that conversation will turn to what’s going on down in Tampa Bay with Jameis Winston and Dirk Koetter. Also at stake is that hold on the NFC South lead the Bucs grabbed last week and a 2-0 start in the NFC overall, which could prove pivotal come January.

Key Matchup

We hate to be repetitive here, but once again this week, the most intriguing matchup revolves around rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Hargreaves suffered through a couple of Welcome to the NFL moments in his debut against the Falcons last week but he rebounded well while playing all 65 snaps on defense and turned in a good game while shuttling between slot corner and right outside corner. Hargreaves spent a lot of time shadowing Julio Jones last week and he responded well enough to earn a chance to do the same this week against Larry Fitzgerald. How the rookie deals with the future Hall of Famer will go a long way toward deciding how the Bucs fare as a whole in this one.

Buccaneer to watch

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Defensive end Noah Spence was downright invisible last week. Working almost exclusively as a right edge rusher in nickel packages, the 2016 second-round draft pick played 35 snaps on defense but failed to record a tackle and never made life uncomfortable forFalcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Spence admitted this week that he needs to start making better use of some of the rush moves he’s learned in recent months and he’s right. Playing on raw skill was all Spence needed to make his mark at the college level but it won’t get him very far in the NFL, and the Bucs badly need Spence to make his mark. The loss of left endJacquies Smith was a major blow to their pass rush that now needs a boost from Spence.

Statistically speaking

The last time the Bucs got off to a 2-0 start was 2010, their second season under then coach Raheem Morris. The Bucs wound up finishing 10-6 that year, their only winning season in the last seven. Overall the Bucs have jumped out to a 2-0 starts seven times in their history (2005, 2000, 1997, 1992, 1980, 1979). In four of those seasons (2005, 2000, 1997 and 1979) the Bucs made the playoffs.

He said it

“It’s great to be excited, it’s great to feel like we’re turning that corner, but I will wait until we [have] about 10 wins before we start getting excited. It’s just Week 1 and if you look at our schedule coming up, we’ve got a lot to prove and our tests are coming, starting with Arizona.’’ Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

GameDay for Tampa Bay in the Desert
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