Our NFL betting writer brings you his best Buccaneers vs. Cardinals predictions and picks for their NFL Week 16 primetime showdown, which is live Sunday at 8:20 p.m. on NBC.

This game isn’t the Christmas present we hoped we’d be getting. The underperforming Buccaneers head to the desert to face the unraveling Cardinals on “Sunday Night Football.”

Cardinals vs. Buccaneers picks

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DeAndre Hopkins
DeAndre Hopkins
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Cardinals vs. Buccaneers predictions and analysis

After last week’s 34-23 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bucs (6-8) lead the division no one wants to win, the NFC South, by a single game over all three other teams. Tom Brady helped the Bucs build a 17-0 lead before the defense collapsed, unable to stop Joe Burrow and the dynamic Bengals passing game. Tampa is now 1-3 since its bye week and the South could be decided by the two looming division games against Carolina and Atlanta.

Few teams have it worse than the Cardinals (4-10), who will give Trace McSorley his first NFL start on Sunday after another quarterback went down. With Kyler Murray already done for the season with an ACL tear, the Cardinals lost Colt McCoy to a concussion during last week’s 24-15 loss to the Denver Broncos. Arizona is reeling, with a single win in its last seven games.

Buccaneers -7.5

In limited action against the Broncos, McSorley managed to toss throw interceptions on just 7-of-15 passing.

The Penn State product had entered only a few games with the Baltimore Ravens before coming to Arizona. While it ought to help to have offensive playmakers like DeAndre Hopkins and Marquise Brown, nothing has come easy for the Cardinals this season even when Murray was healthy.

Tom Brady
Tom Brady
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The Buccaneers are smarting after a blown lead to Cincinnati and a second straight ugly loss, and we figure they’ll be ready to take out their frustration on a lesser opponent. The Bucs haven’t always beaten the teams they were “supposed to” beat this season, but Brady and co. won’t be troubled by Arizona’s defense, which just let Brett Rypien complete 80.8 percent of his throws.

Brady, even amid his worst season, is more trustworthy than McSorley. Sometimes it’s as straightforward as that.

Pick: Buccaneers to win (-7.5) at -110 with Caesars Sportsbook

Buccaneers to score over 26 points +104

Caesars allows you to tinker with certain props to your liking, notably with the alternative points slider.

While betting on the Buccaneers to score over 23.0 points returns only a -160 line, moving that O/U slider to 26.0 makes the “over” number more enticing at +104.

The Cardinals own the worst scoring defense in the league, allowing 26.6 points per game. A Broncos team headed by Rypien and Latavius Murray managed to score 24 on them last week, and opponents have scored at least 27 points on Arizona five times in its past eight outings.

While the Buccaneers are 4-10-0 in O/U this season, Cardinals games have hit the over eight times, owing more to Arizona’s porous defense than the points a healthy Murray was able to put up.

Pick: Buccaneers to score over 26.0 points @ +104 with Caesars Sportsbook

Betting on the NFL?

Cardinals commit a turnover on their first drive +625

Who knows what Kliff Kingsbury’s early-game script for McSorley’s first start will entail? It would be wise to run the ball and aim for some positive plays, but the Cardinals ran it just 22 times against New England two weeks ago — the game Murray was injured and McCoy entered — and 20 times last week.

If the Cardinals continue to rely on the passing game, it opens up a greater likelihood for an early interception, especially against a Buccaneers defense that used to be fearsome. Tampa Bay has generated just 13 takeaways this season, among the fewest in the NFL, but it did manage to pick off Burrow and land seven QB hits on him last week.

The likeliest outcome of Arizona’s opening drive is a punt, which is why that’s got far and away the shortest odds at -265. The Cardinals haven’t shown they’re capable of scoring a touchdown on the first drive of games this year, so a turnover figures to be the most exciting option. And it happened just three weeks ago when James Conner fumbled on the Cardinals’ first possession against the Chargers.

Pick: Cardinals to commit a turnover on first drive @ +625

Cardinals vs. Buccaneers odds

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook. Correct at time of publishing and subject to change.

Team Spread Money line Total Points 40.5
Buccaneers (-7.5) -110 -365 Over -110
Cardinals (+7.5) -110 +285 Under -110