The Breakdown: Cardinals vs. Buccaneers

An in-depth preview of the Cardinals matchup against Tampa Bay as the Buccaneers look to continue their winning ways on the road.


KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 10/31/10
SURFACE: Natural Grass
TV: FOX, Chris Myers, Brian Billick, Jaime Maggio

PREDICTION: Buccaneers 27-21

KEYS TO THE GAME: Cardinals QB Max Hall is on track to start after leaving last week's game with a concussion. But after a rough outing in Seattle in which he struggled with accuracy - supposedly his strength - Hall needs RBs Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells to lead the effort against the league's second-worst run defense. Wells could see an increased workload due to Hightower's continued issues with fumbles. Undrafted rookie RB LeGarrette Blount is emerging as the Bucs' best option out of the backfield, but the offense runs through QB Josh Freeman, TE Kellen Winslow and WR Mike Williams. Freeman's success will be directly tied to his protection.

FAST FACTS: Five of Freeman's seven career victories have been fourth-quarter comebacks. ... The Cardinals had five sacks last week after recording just eight through their first five games.



Hit the road and it can hit back.

That has to be the Bucs' biggest concern as they head into Sunday's game at Arizona, beginning a tough stretch that includes four of their next five games on the road.

Fortunately, Tampa Bay is riding a four-game winning streak away from home dating back to last season when the Bucs won their final two away games at Seattle and New Orleans.

The momentum carried into this season when the Bucs posted big victories at Carolina and Cincinnati.

According to several players, the Bucs approach to playing on the road changed after they returned from a lopsided loss to New England in London last year.

"We made a change after the London trip last year, going to a business trip-type mentality," said guard Davin Joseph.

"It's been paying off for us. We've been going on the road and dealing with noise better on offense and make plays when it's time to make plays and finish in the fourth quarter. Taking a different mindset and finishing in the fourth quarter on the road is really paying off for us."

Because the Bucs are the second-youngest team in the NFL and began the year with low expectations outside of their facility, they have used the hostile environment as more fuel.

"We've thrived off the negativity," coach Raheem Morris said. "We go out there and we perform. We want to prove people wrong all the time. It just helps what we do. We come out energized for road games. The way we travel -- our owners always do a great job of helping us travel with the hotels and the environment in which we travel. That helps when we go on the road."


The defensive starting lineup is expected to change Sunday for the first time this season because of an injury at one of the team's thinnest positions.

Outside linebacker Clark Haggans suffered a groin injury last week in Seattle and hasn't practiced all week. Will Davis likely will start, but there is not much experience behind him.

Alex Hall, a three-year veteran, is the only other outside linebacker on the roster, and he signed with the team in late September.

It's possible the club could move rookie O'Brien Schofield from the non-football injury list to the active roster, but he has practiced for only two weeks. Schofield is returning from knee surgery and is a pass-rush specialist.

As long as Davis stays healthy, the Cardinals should be fine. As a rookie last year, Davis played well until suffering a knee injury at mid-season. He played 24 snaps last week after Haggans was hurt and held up well.

Haggans' injury highlights the troubles at the position. The starters, Haggans and Joey Porter, are both 33, and the Cardinals don't have proven heir apparents.

But they are high on Davis and Schofield. They think Schofield, a fourth-round choice out of Wisconsin, can be a productive pass rusher in the NFL.



--OT Jeremy Trueblood has a knee injury that forced him to leave Sunday's game against the Rams and did not practice again Thursday. He is expected to return to workouts Friday.

--RT James Lee took all the reps with the first team offense Thursday.

--C Jeff Faine is out of Sunday's game with a quad injury.

--DT Brian Price has a hip injury and will not play Sunday at Arizona.

--LB Geno Hayes has swelling on his knee and did not practice again Thursday.

--CB Aqib Talib has a calf injury but returned to practice on Thursday.

--G Keydrick Vincent has a back injury and did not practice again Thursday.


--QB Max Hall has been intercepted three times this season. Two of them came on his second throws of the game and one came on the third. In 25 possessions with Hall at quarterback, the Cardinals have not scored a rushing or receiving touchdown.

--RB Tim Hightower has lost three fumbles this year and is in danger of losing his starting job to Beanie Wells.

--RB Beanie Wells could make the first start of his career this week. Tim Hightower has lost three fumbles and Wells could supplant him.

--RB LaRod Stephens-Howling can be a dynamic third-down back if the team can keep games close, which enables coaches to use the entire offensive game plan. Stephens-Howling is difficult to defend when he has some space.

--WR Steve Breaston is expected to return after missing three games with a knee injury. He will start.

--WR Early Doucet returned last week after missing four games due to a sports hernia. Doucet did not look 100 percent and was sore after the game. He is expected to play Sunday.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald caught just three passes for 30 yards last week in Seattle. Fitzgerald has been open but quarterbacks have had difficulty getting him the ball.

--WR Andre Roberts fills the No.4 receiver's and punt returner's job. He has not excelled at either but the Cardinals are hoping he's close to making a breakthrough.

--TE Ben Patrick is a decent receiver who is being underutilized. Patrick has 11 catches, one short of his career high, but the Cardinals don't use the tight end consistently in the pass game.

--PK Jay Feely has a strong leg and has made 7 of 8 field goals.

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