The NFL’s primetime Christmas day present to their fans is a match-up between two teams who have failed to live up to their preseason expectations. After their loss last weekend, in which they blew a big first-half lead, Tampa Bay will be in Arizona to take on the Cardinals and third-string quarterback Trace McSorley. We’ll preview the game before getting into my best prop bet.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still holding onto first place in the NFC South division despite having a 6-8 record. That tells you everything you need to know about the quality of that division as a whole, but regardless this Bucs team has proven that every time they look like they might be turning it around, they’re actually not.
Last weekend's loss to the Bengals is a perfect example, as Tampa Bay went up 17-3 in the first half but then proceeded to lose the game 34-23. One of the Buccaneers' biggest problems all season has been their inability to establish a run game. Tampa Bay has not rushed for over 100 yards in a game since November 13th in their win over the Seahawks, and on the season, they’ve only been able to score four rushing touchdowns.
The Bucs' defense has been relatively solid, as they are ranked seventh in the league in yards allowed per game. The problem at times has stemmed from the Bucs' offense putting the defense in challenging positions; for example, the four turnovers the offense had last weekend put the defense consistently back on the field and with the Bengals in excellent field position.
Tampa Bay won’t be up against an offensive juggernaut this weekend, though, as the Cardinals are now down to their third-string quarterback and losers of four straight games. Arizona has scored 15 or fewer points in three of their last four games, and on the season, they have lacked explosiveness averaging just 5.5 yards a pass which is the worst average in the league.
The run game has been the only aspect of the Cardinals' entire team that does not look broken, and that’s because of James Conner, who is now up to 624 yards and six touchdowns.
Arizona may be bad on offense, but their defense is ranked dead last in the league in points allowed per game, so our prop pick is centered around targeting this weak defense. The play is Mike Evans Over 49.5 Receiving Yards at (-112). The Bucs wideout is averaging 65.3 yards a game over his last ten games and has gotten at least nine targets in three of the previous four games.
The Buccaneers throw the ball more than any team in the league, and that pace should continue against the Cardinals' defense that ranks 23rd in opponent passing yards allowed per game and has allowed the most yards after the catch in the NFL this season with 2,119.
Arizona also ranks dead last in the league in opponent completion percentage at 69.7%, so if there was ever a game for Tom Brady and the Bucs' offense to put up big numbers, it’s this one. Evans should be able to take advantage of this Cardinals' secondary and go over his receiving prop, which is the lowest it’s been set at over the last ten games.