Last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Arizona Cardinals had a combined 24 regular season victories. Both teams were playoff bound.
Fast forward a year later, they now have a total of 10 victories this 2022 season as the Buccaneers are barely hanging to the NFC South lead at 6-8 and the Cardinals have already been eliminated from playoff contention with a 4-10 record.
Arizona had the eighth-best offense in the NFL last season so it is very surprising that their offensive unit took a big step back as they dropped all the way to 21st heading into Week 16.
They will be led by third-string quarterback Trace McSorley with franchise quarterback Kyler Murray out for the season with a torn ACL and No. 2 quarterback Colt McCoy ruled out with a concussion.
McSorley will be making the first start of his NFL career and it will be against future first-ballot Hall of Famer and seven-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady.
The Buccaneers lost three of their last four games. The Cardinals are currently on a four-game losing streak.
Here are three things to watch for in the Buccaneers-Cardinals game on Sunday Night Football:
Rachaad White’s return to Arizona; Will the Cardinals be able to stop him?
Rookie running back Rachaad White was the Buccaneers’ third-round selection in this year’s draft. He was an Arizona State standout with nearly 1,500 yards from scrimmage and scored 16 touchdowns in his final year in college. White will be returning to the state of his alma mater in Arizona as he faces the Cardinals 13th-ranked run defense that just allowed 32-year-old running back Latavius Murray to rush for a season high 130 rushing yards.
Arizona’s 17 rushing touchdowns allowed is the sixth-most in the NFL. The Buccaneers have the worst rushing attack in the league led by White and Leonard Fournettte. The rookie has only 122 rushing yards in the last three games combined. Fournette is bound to receive goal-line carries but even with a porous rushing offense, the Bucanneers will have plenty of opportunities to exploit the Cardinals’ run defense that has allowed an average of 4.6 yards per carry.
Turn back the clock; Another big day for J.J. Watt incoming?
J.J. Watt is coming off a three-sack performance against the Denver Broncos as he was an unstoppable force last Sunday. He leads the Arizona Cardinals with 9.5 sacks on the season and if he reaches 10, he will satisfy another incentive that will reward him another $1 million. And what better time to do it than this Sunday on Christmas Day against the legendary Tom Brady on Sunday Night Football?
Brady seems a little more antsy in the pocket on gameday than usual despite being sacked a league-low 19 times this season. However, Tristian Wirfs and Nick Leverett have not disappointed. Arizona’s pass rush is not exactly something to fear considering they rank in bottom half of league in sacks (31) but J.J. Watt remains the consistent force on defense almost every week. Good chance Watt will draw the double team blocks especially with Zach Allen, who’s second on the team in sacks (5.5), out with an injury.
With Trace McSorley making his first-career start, expect the Buccaneers to bring the pressure
With Shaq Barrett on injured reserve and Jason Pierre-Paul playing for Baltimore, the Buccaneers’ best sources for pass rush has come from the nose tackle Vita Vea (6.5 sacks) and inside linebacker Devin White (5.5). Former first-round pick Joe Tryon remains a work in progress with four sacks and 35 pressures. A four-man rush might be the only thing the Bucs need to make McSorley uncomfortable.
Considering the Cardinals have an injury-riddled offensive line that is missing three Week 1 starters and has allowed a grand total of 40 sacks through 14 games, Arizona will have a difficult task in protecting third-string quarterback Trace McSorley on Sunday. The Cardinals own the second-worst home record (1-7) in the NFL, with the worst being the Houston Texans (0-6). McSorley struggled in Mile High last weekend as he threw for 95 passing yards and two interceptions against the Denver Broncos.