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Bucs vs. 49ers prediction: Even with rookie QB, Niners will top Brady, Tampa

Backed by the NFL’s best defense and plenty of offensive weapons, Brock Purdy will deliver as a favorite in his NFL debut

San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, who was the last player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, will make his first pro start Sunday at home against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, who was the last player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, will make his first pro start Sunday at home against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)Read moreEzra Shaw / Getty Images

Here’s something you probably never thought you would see: Tom Brady is an underdog against a team whose quarterback will be making his first career NFL start.

A quarterback who was picked dead last in this year’s NFL Draft.

A quarterback who was 6 months old when Brady was taken with the 199th pick of the draft … in 1999.

It’s true: San Francisco rookie Brock Purdy, a 22-year-old who earned “Mr. Irrelevant” status after being the 262nd and final selection of the 2022 draft, will take the field Sunday as a favorite over the 45-year-old Brady in Sunday’s Bucs vs. 49ers contest.

Also true: We aren’t taking the points with Brady.

Here’s our Bucs vs. 49ers prediction for a clash of NFC playoff contenders sitting atop their respective divisions.

Note: Odds updated as of 3:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 9.

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Bucs vs. 49ers Prediction

  1. 49ers -3.5, +100 (at Caesars Sportsbook)

Bucs vs. 49ers Prediction: Analysis

Allow us to be crystal clear: We have absolutely no interest — zero, zilch, nada — in putting money on the team with the NFL’s worst point spread record.

And certainly not when that team is facing a scalding-hot opponent that has allowed an average of 11.4 points during a five-game winning streak that includes four double-digit routs.

We get it: Tampa Bay’s is an underdog for the first time this season. But the Bucs’ putrid 3-8-1 ATS record is hardly the result of the Bucs winning a bunch of close games but failing to cover the spread.

Since starting out 2022-23 with a two blowouts of the Cowboys (19-3) and Saints (20-10) on the road, Tampa Bay is 4-6 SU and 1-8-1 ATS. Brady and Co. lost outright to the Packers, Chiefs, Steelers, Panthers, Ravens and Browns, and only two of those games were close (14-12 vs. Green Bay; 20-18 at Pittsburgh).

During this 10-game stretch, half of the Bucs’ four victories — 16-13 over the Rams in Week 9; 17-16 over the Saints on Monday night — required fourth-quarter rallies and game-winning TD passes from Brady with less than 10 seconds to play.

» READ MORE: Super Bowl odds: Eagles remain third choice to win NFL title

Had Los Angeles and New Orleans played even remotely competent late-game football, Tampa Bay (6-6 SU) would be 4-8 right now.

Well, guess what the 49ers do? They play competent football for 60 minutes — competent and, lately, thoroughly dominant football.

Despite losing starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a broken foot last Sunday, San Francisco took out Tua Tagovailoa and the explosive Miami Dolphins 33-17 as a 5.5-point home favorite.

Purdy took over for Garoppolo to begin the Niners’ second series and did more than just “manage the game”. He went 25-for-37 for 210 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. The Iowa State product also remained calm under pressure, bouncing back from four sacks and going 7-for-17 on third downs.

No doubt, Purdy will face a much stiffer test this week against a top-10 Tampa defense that has given up the fifth-fewest points in the NFL (18.3 per game) and allows the seventh-fewest passing yards (195.3 per game).

But while that defense has an entire game on film to study — something Miami didn’t have — Purdy has spent an entire week taking first-string reps. That means an entire week building chemistry with San Francisco’s multitude of weapons, including dual-threats Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel, plus speedy wideout Brandon Aiyuk.

We trust that San Francisco coach/offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan will devise a game plan that maximizes Purdy’s strengths and puts him (and the offense) in the best position to succeed.

What about Brady and his weapons? They don’t scare anyone — least of all the best defense in football, which is what the 49ers field. And by “best” we mean this: No team has given up fewer total yards, passing yards or points than San Francisco.

With NFL sack leader Joey Bosa leading the way, the 49ers have surrendered more than 20 points just twice all season — back-to-back losses to Atlanta (28-14 on the road) and Kansas City (44-23 at home).

Now here comes Grandpa Brady and the Bucs, who have scored more than 22 points just once all season and been held to 19 points or fewer seven times. Including a 21-16 win over Seattle in Germany a month ago, Tampa Bay is averaging 16.3 points in six games away from home.

The low point came Oct. 23, when the Bucs managed a single field goal in a 21-3 loss at Carolina as a 13-point favorite (still the biggest upset of the NFL season). Two weeks earlier, the 49ers went to Carolina and crushed the Panthers 37-15.

The most interesting thing about those results? San Francisco had to face McCaffrey when it played the Panthers. But by the time Tampa went to Carolina, McCaffery had been traded to the Niners.

Also, P.J. Walker started at quarterback and tossed two TDs when the Panthers took down the Bucs. Think Purdy is a big drop-off from Walker? He’s not.

Expect Purdy to play a solid game and get a lot of help from a suffocating Niners’ defense that should make life hell for Brady for a full 60 minutes. Lay the points at Caesars Sportsbook.

Bucs vs. 49ers odds (via Caesars Sportsbook)

  1. Point spread: Bucs (+3.5, -120) @ 49ers (-3.5, +100)

  2. Moneyline: Bucs (+158) @ 49ers (-190)

  3. Total: 37 points

» READ MORE: NFL MVP Odds: Eagles’ Hurts, Chiefs’ Mahomes in two-man battle

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