Bucs Look to Halt Skid

After a strong start, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are just hoping to head into their bye week above .500.

The Buccaneers (4-4) look to avoid a three-game losing streak Sunday when they host the equally inconsistent Arizona Cardinals (3-4).

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made Tampa Bay -3.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 37.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 55% of bets for this game have been placed on Tampa Bay -3.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Since starting the season 4-1, Tampa has lost consecutive games and three of its last four, including a tough 24-23 defeat to Jacksonville last Sunday. Jeff Garcia, who threw for 267 yards and a touchdown, was intercepted on a potential game-winning drive after entering Jaguars territory.

It was the third interception thrown by Garcia, who had not been picked off in 189 attempts entering the game.

The Buccaneers, who also lost two fumbles in a Week 7 loss to the Detroit Lions, haven't forced any turnovers the last two games. Tampa Bay created eight in its first four games, including five in wins over St. Louis and Carolina in late September.

"You can go through all the statistics you want, play fantasy football and draft whoever you want. At the end of the day it's turnover ratio that decides football games," coach Jon Gruden said.

"We turned it over too many times in two weeks, and we haven't gotten any turnovers. Usually that'll do you in."

The defense has played well in both losses, adding to Tampa's frustration heading into this contest.

"We're trying not to get frustrated because we're doing so many things well," linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "On the same token, it's about finding a way to win. For us to not have turnovers (the past two weeks), from my standpoint defensively, is not a way to turn the corner. We've really got to find a way to do it."

Despite its slide, Tampa Bay is second in the NFC South - one-half game behind Carolina - and plays the 1-6 Atlanta Falcons following its bye week.

"We can beat ourselves up about a lot of things, but we're only halfway through the season and I'm not going to allow myself to hang my head and be disappointed," Garcia said.

"I think there are a lot of positive things to look at. We have eight games remaining, and I know this team's going to come back this next week, give everything they have to give, fight, battle, and do whatever it takes to turn this season around."

Tampa Bay has won four of its last six games against the Cardinals, although the Bucs lost 12-7 in the 2004 season finale in the most recent meeting. Garcia is 4-1 as a starter against the Cardinals, and his 10 touchdowns against them are tied for third-most against any team he's faced in his nine-year career.

The Bucs face a Cardinals team coming off a much-needed bye week. Arizona was able to rest some injured players, namely quarterback Kurt Warner.

Warner, who was sharing duties under center with Matt Leinart, took over the starting job after Leinart was injured Oct. 7. The following week, Warner tore a ligament in his left, non-throwing elbow during Arizona's 25-10 loss to Carolina.

Despite the injury, he started against the Washington Redskins on Oct. 21, and was 27-of-41 for 282 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 21-19 loss.

Warner was wearing a bulky brace that made it difficult to work in tight areas. He told Arizona's official Web site that he felt good, but his mobility remains limited.

"Obviously if you do the movement it is going to hurt because the ligaments aren't healed," he said. "But we have gotten over some of the initial trauma. The time off helped."

The Cardinals are also hoping the time off benefited receiver Anquan Boldin, who missed three games with a hip injury. Boldin had eight catches - two for touchdowns - but only 29 receiving yards in Arizona's last game. Alongside Larry Fitzgerald, who leads the NFC in receptions (46) and yards receiving (642), Boldin has emerged as a possession receiver with 30 catches in four games.

Like the Bucs, the Cardinals have benefited from a weak division. They are one game behind the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks, whom they've already beaten.

"I think we should be a lot better as far as our record stands," Boldin said, "but I think we're headed in the right direction."

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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