Tampa Bay is better than their record suggests, with solid marks in rushing offense and defense, but have issues in the passing game. Arizona, meanwhile, looked to be an under-the-radar force this season, but they've been hit with the injury bug like never before.
Neither team is expected to win their division, but it's early in the season yet, and either could turn their fortunes around. Let's take a look at both teams below.
Meet the Buccaneers
Tampa Bay has the No. 15 rushing offense in the NFL, the No. 15 passing defense and the No. 17 rushing defense. These are all middle-of-the-pack stats, but they shouldn't belong to an 0-3 team. So what's the big issue? The fact that quarterback Josh Freeman led them to the No. 31 passing offense in the NFL, with 174.7 yards per game.
Freeman has been very bad this season, and the Buccaneers have decided to make a change. They will start rookie third-round pick Mike Glennon, and it's hard to imagine them going back to Freeman at all. In fact, Freeman has already demanded a trade after hitting the bench, so Glennon is the guy going forward.
That's one of the biggest reasons this game will be so interesting. Glennon has a strong arm and a lot of big-play potential, and he's supported by Doug Martin in the running game, which helps as well. All eyes will be on Glennon in the game.
Meet the Cardinals
Arizona has been hit with the injury bug hard. The team lost outside linebackers Sam Acho and Lorenzo Alexander for the season after leg and foot injuries respectively during a Week 3 game against the New Orleans Saints. Then it was announced that Alex Okafor, a rookie outside linebacker, had torn his biceps and will be out for the season as well. Okafor was the primary depth on the team, so they're scrambling for help up front.
Darnell Dockett had a strong game against the Saints, which is what the Cardinals need right now. Dockett had a disappointing 2012 campaign but he stepped up against the Saints, though the Cardinals did lose, 31-7. After the initial opening drive, the Cardinals put up just 172 yards of offense for the remainder of the game.
Carson Palmer has been so-so for Arizona. He's finding his receivers, but he's also finding opposing defensive backs, with three touchdowns against four interceptions. To be fair, his interceptions have mostly come during garbage time when the Cardinals were already out of the game. But being out of the game in the first place falls on Palmer.
Local Takes: Buccaneers
Sander Philipse of Bucs Nation notes that the Tampa Bay passing game has been a big reason for their failures on the field:
Greg Schiano endorsed Freeman as the starter in both of his past two press conferences, and Freeman's play has been better than his abysmal statistics. But the Buccaneers have been awful as a passing offense, with Freeman completing just 45.7% of his passes this year. The lack of production from their passing game has been the main reason the Buccaneers are now 0-3.
Local Takes: Cardinals
Jesse Reynolds of Revenge of the Birds thinks it will be a tough game for Arizona to win:
Before the injury report I was thinking the Cardinals would beat the Bucs by at least two scores, however as of right now I think the game is much closer. Personally I think Mike Glennon isn't going to do any better than the recently benched Josh Freemanand I think will struggle mightily against even a depleted Cardinals team. The Bucs will try to run the ball on the Cardinals and should have decent success with Dan Williams, Sam Acho and Rashad Johnson out. I do not expect the Cardinals offense to play well against an underrated Buc's defense. I see the Cardinals winnings a low scoring game on the back of Feely field goals.
Follow the Fun
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Josh Freeman Trade: Buccaneers quarterback wants out of Tampa Bay http://t.co/VdMmbcFI5E— Sander Philipse (@Bucs_Nation) September 26, 2013
Cardinals vs. Saints review: Where did the 'big nickel' go? http://t.co/g6789azvEd— Revenge of the Birds (@revengeofbirds) September 25, 2013
Three of SB Nation's five experts picked the Buccaneers to win this one, with Ryan Van Bibber and Joel Thorman being the two picking Arizona.
Tampa Bay opened as 3-point favorites to win this one, but the line narrowed as the week progressed, according to OddsShark. Some books have it almost even, with the Bucs being just 1-point favorites.
The Buccaneers will remain home to host the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 13 following a bye week. The Cardinals will return home to host the Carolina Panther son Oct. 6.