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Three Big Things: Buccaneers Week

A look at the top storylines for a Christmas game


The three biggest things to watch for Sunday when the Cardinals play the Buccaneers at State Farm Stadium:

What Brady Means and How The Cardinals Defend

Tom Brady hasn't faced the Cardinals in the regular season in a decade and hasn't played the Cardinals in Arizona since 2004 – the year after Kliff Kingsbury spent a year as Brady's teammate. His faux retirement and then return this season was supposed to lead into more greatness for he and the Buccaneers. But even in first place, Brady and the Bucs aren't the same. Their offense isn't scoring at nearly the rate they did a year ago, when the Bucs were a powerhouse. They also can't run the ball – an intriguing combination against a Cardinals' defense that made life miserable for the Broncos' pass game last week but couldn't stop the run. J.J. Watt is on a hot streak, and he and his teammates would love to continue Brady's frustration. That may be the main chance the Cardinals have to compete.

Another QB, And Seeking Offense

Trace McSorley will make his first career start on Christmas night, the third straight game the Cardinals will start a different QB. Going against a defense with some smart veterans and a desperation to stay in first place, that's not a simple task. McSorley had some successes in the preseason, and he will benefit from getting first-team reps this week. But the regular season is different, as McSorley found last week. As much as the Bucs have struggled on offense, the Cards can't have 240 yards of offense and three turnovers again. It's a heavy lift for an inexperienced QB, but it's reality.

Maybe Not A Christmas Miracle, But A Christmas Present

There are ghosts of Christmas past in the building, with so many ex-Cardinals on the other sideline – Todd Bowles, Byron Leftwich, GM Jason Licht, among many. Meanwhile, little has gone right for the Cardinals this season. Is it too much to ask for a different kind of performance on Christmas night? The Buccaneers haven't exactly played great football themselves, and they have to come cross country to miss both Christmas Eve and Christmas with their families. Playing well against Brady means something. Yes, everyone is going to talk about draft status and where the Cardinals might pick, but a win also still means something in the locker room.