J.T.’s Keys to a Buccaneers Victory Over L.A.

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It’s time to talk about an uncomfortable truth regarding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s the fact that they shouldn’t be favored this weekend when playing the Los Angeles Rams. With the injuries the Bucs have endured and what is frankly a bad matchup for the secondary, it’s more than fair to say that the Rams should win this game.

However, that doesn’t mean they will. Because despite everything the Bucs have gone through in recent weeks, these are still the defending Super Bowl champions. Instead of looking at what has been lost, it’s also fair to look at what they still have. This includes an MVP caliber quarterback, what is possibly the best front seven in the NFL, a future hall of fame wide receiver, a quality secondary that is finally getting healthy, at least one pro bowl offensive lineman and a Gronk.

With all this at their disposal, there is no reason why the Bucs can’t win this game. How do they do that? Let me tell you.

Take Away The “Other” Guys

There has been a lot of talk about Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. leading up to this game a day rightfully so. Kupp is having one of the greatest seasons any pass catcher has ever had. Beckham Jr is playing some of the best football of his career since joining the Rams midseason. It’s best to just accept that these two will hurt the Bucs defense this weekend. It would be easier for Todd Bowles and the Bucs defense to just take away everyone else.

It all starts with doing what the Bucs do best in dominating opponents’ running game. Tampa Bay is ranked third in the NFL in run defense and it bodes well for them that nose tackle Vita Vea has a good 60 lbs on the Rams center Brian Allen. Despite the miraculous return of Cam Akers, I’d expect the Bucs to limit what the Rams can do on the ground in a big way.

Through the air it will be Tyler Higbee to watch. He is quietly one of the better pass catching tight ends in the game and someone the Bucs can’t let beat them. A steady diet of Lavonte David, who is certainly closer to fully healthy than he was last week, as well as the safety rotation of Antonie Winfield Jr., Mike Edwards and Jordan Whitehead need to keep Higbee in check.

Van Jefferson is also worth noting on this Rams offense. He is a strong route runner and has excellent hands. Corners Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean should be able to keep him in check, but Jefferson is capable of making plays if the Buccaneers secondary isn’t on their toes.

Speed Kills

The Bucs aren’t the only team dealing with injuries in this game. Los Angeles will have safeties Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller out for this game. In fact, the Rams depth is stretched so thin here that they signed a retired Eric Weddle off the streets early last week.

Even with everyone who won’t be suiting up for the Bucs, this is something that Tom Brady can take advantage of. With all the questions about the Buccaneers wide receiver outside of Mike Evans, there is one thing that no one can deny. These guys are really fast!

Scotty Miller ran a 4.36 40 yard dash at his pro day when coming out of Bowling Green in 2019. Newly signed John Brown, who head coach Bruce Arians drafted in Arizona in 2014, ran a 4.34 at the NFL combine. Cyril Grayson ran 4.33 at LSU’s pro day and was an All American sprinter in college.

With all this speed it feels as if a splash play or two are inevitable. Especially with a secondary that is old or inexperienced. The Buccaneers should look to push the ball down field and take their shots. They can also just get these playmakers the ball in space and let them out run the defenders. Either way, utilizing that speed is a must.

Winning Trench Warfare

Controlling the line of scrimmage is always essential. However, this will be a heavyweight fight the likes of which are rarely seen.

On one side the Rams have two of the best defensive linemen to ever do it. Von Miller is one of the best pass rushers of the last two decades. What more is he is looking like the Miller of old since joining the Rams as opposed to an old Von Miller. And then there’s defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is in my opinion the greatest defensive tackle of all time.

On the other side there are three pro bowl offensive linemen (although two are injured), a future hall of fame defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh, a 350 lb mountain in the middle and a pass rusher who had 20 sacks a few years ago.

It’s worth mentioning who might not be playing in this game. For the Bucs it’s center Ryan Jensen and right tackle Tristan Wirfs. Both are pro bowlers and vital to slowing down the Rams defensive line. For Los Angeles it’s left tackle Andrew Whitworth who has already been ruled out. Despite being 40 years old he might be the Rams best blocker.

Whichever of these two groups wins the battle up front will likely be in a position to win the game. I tend to give the advantage to the Buccaneers here because they have so many good players here. However, the overwhelming talent of Donald and Miller could be the great equalizer.

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