The worst division in the NFL this season has been the NFC South. Every team in the division is two games below .500, and that’s the only reason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might host a playoff game. Tampa Bay is currently 6-8 and one game ahead of the three other teams in the division (Atlanta, Carolina, and New Orleans). The Buccaneers will play division opponents the last two weeks of the regular season, but they will head west to face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday Night Football to close out the NFL’s Christmas tripleheader.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will look to hold onto their NFC South lead when they face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, December 25, 2022, at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
NFL Week 16 Betting Odds
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -6
Arizona Cardinals +6
Money Line: Buccaneers -265, Cardinals +218
We have seen significant line movement ahead of this game as Trace McSorley is set to make his first start at quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. Tampa Bay was originally favored by four points per the NFL betting odds, but the Buccaneers are now expected to win by more than a touchdown. As for the total, that number has dropped from 41 to 40 as the Cardinals won’t be as good on offense without Kyler Murray or Colt McCoy under center.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady is finally starting to play like an old man. To be fair, the GOAT hasn’t been terrible this year, completing 66% of his passes for 3,897 yards (6.3 YPA) with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. However, he doesn’t want to be hit and is more than happy to dump passes off underneath rather than to let plays develop and risk facing more pressure in the pocket. Tampa Bay has only completed one pass play longer than 40 yards since Week 2, and opponents are just sitting on underneath routes and daring Brady to beat them over the top.
The Buccaneers have been unable to run the ball effectively. Tampa Bay ranks dead last in every team rushing category. They run the ball on just 32.6% of their plays and average 3.3 YPC and 74.3 YPG on the ground. That puts increased pressure on the passing game, but Rachaad White has been a little more effective than Leonard Fournette. Seven of Tampa Bay’s nine players that have at least 20 receptions are averaging under 10.0 YPR with Mike Evans (13.9 YPR) and Julio Jones (12.9 YPR) being the two exceptions.
This defense has been solid despite the issues with the offense though. Tampa Bay ranks 10th in scoring defense (20.6 PPG) and 7th in total defense (314.7 YPG). The Buccaneers are dealing with some key injuries right now though as linebacker Shaq Barrett is on injured reserve and cornerback Jamel Dean has been ruled out. Additionally, their best defensive lineman (Vita Vea) and top defensive back (Antoine Winfield Jr.) are both questionable to play on Sunday night.
Former Penn State signal caller Trace McSorley will make his first career NFL start on Sunday night. McSorley saw a little game action in his first three seasons with Baltimore, but he has not impressed during his time in the desert. In four games, McSorley has completed 15 of 29 passes for 166 yards with three interceptions. He is a solid runner, but his accuracy has left a lot to be desired.
That mobility is a good thing considering the Cardinals might be missing four starters along the offensive line. The good news is that the skill position players are largely healthy with the exception of tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver Rondale Moore. James Conner has run well in recent weeks, and DeAndre Hopkins and Marquise Brown are a solid receiving tandem.
Arizona ranks dead last in scoring defense (26.6 PPG) and red zone defense. The Cardinals have been unable to get to the quarterback consistently, and Budda Baker was only named to the Pro Bowl due to name recognition. This secondary has serious concerns too with the top four cornerbacks on the depth chart questionable to play on Sunday night.
Buccaneers at Cardinals Free Pick
Although you can see why the line swung the way it did in favor of Tampa Bay, this is too much of a correction. Arizona will be able to keep the game within a touchdown at home against a Tampa Bay team that is 3-10-1 ATS and has underwhelmed all year.
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