All eyes will be on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend as they travel to Los Angeles to take on the Rams. It is widely believed that this could be a playoff preview and many, including myself, would argue that these are the two best teams in the NFC. And while this game promises to be an entertaining matchup, it’s the game inside the game that I’ll be keeping my eye on.
This week that will be the duo of Rams receivers going against the Buccaneers secondary. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods provide a unique matchup that will cause problems for the Buccaneers defense. Limiting these two will be critical to a Bucs win. Here’s what I’ll be watching for.
What Makes Them So Difficult?
Kupp and Woods are one of the most dangerous pairs of pass catchers in the game. This is because they both thrive at creating yards after catch. Both ranked in the top five among receivers in this category last year and top ten overall.
This means that if you give these two an inch then they’ll take a mile. Things like bubble screens and quick hit passes become a big play waiting to happen. On top of that, both have deep speed to prevent defenses from keying in on shorter passes.
It’s a classic catch 22 and there’s no good way to defend this pair. This looks to be even more evident this season with new quarterback Matthew Stafford who elevates their down field attack.
Carlton Davis Concerns?
Carlton Davis continues to impress and establish himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. We have seen him shut down the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Golladay, Julio Jones and Michael Thomas. However, there is a weakness to Davis’ game that could be exploited this week.
The Bucs like to use big physical press man corners. To the point where the Buccaneers secondary calls themselves the Gravediggers, because they want to put their opponents in the ground. Davis is no exception to this prototype. He can out muscle big receivers and use his length and athleticism to beat them at their own game.
With that said, when you’re big and strong it often comes at the expense of speed and quickness. This is the mold of receiver that has given Davis trouble in the past. Think of Tyreek Hill and the near 200 yards he put up against Davis last season. Or even the nearly 220 yards that D.J. Moore pulled in between two games last year.
This is the mold that Davis will be matchup up against with the Rams. Woods and Kupp are extremely quick and elusive. This is what makes them so dangerous after that catch. More than likely, Davis will see Woods most of the game as Kupp works a majority of the time out of the slot. This could be that much more difficult for Davis as Woods is the faster of these two opponents.
Despite how good Davis is, this is a battle that doesn’t favor him.
As I had said, Kupp does most of his work out of the slot. This is an issue with the Buccaneers primary slot defender, Sean Murphy-Bunting, out with an injury. You don’t have to be a coach to know that a backup trying to defend one of the opponents best players isn’t a favorable matchup.
At this point, it’s unclear exactly who will be taking most of the snaps in this role. Ross Cockrell has filled in here in the past and done an admirable job. Mike Edwards is fresh off a two touchdown performance vs Atlanta and has shown he’s a dangerous ball hawk when on the field. Regardless, it will be a challenge that they’ll have to rise up to meet.
Through two weeks Kupp ranks third in total receiving yards and is tied for second most receiving touchdowns in the NFL. He has quickly emerged as the favorite target in this Stafford led offense. If the Buccaneers can slow down Kupps hot start then they will have a good chance in this game.
These Rams wide receivers are going to be a problem. Not just because they are one of the best duos in the NFL, but also because they are a bad matchup for the Buccaneers. It will take a complete effort from the back seven to keep them in check by getting to the ball carrier and limiting what they can do in space.
Make no mistake, the Rams have a big advantage here. It’s likely that they will pass for over 300 yards and multiple touchdowns. However, if the Buccaneers are able to slow these receivers down then Los Angeles may find it difficult to move the ball in other ways. Keeping these two in check is the key to a Buccaneers victory.