Two months ago many would have expected this weeks game to be an NFC Championship game preview. The defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams traveling to Tampa Bay to play the Buccaneers. Oh how different this game looks now.
Both of these teams have struggled this year and both have a losing record. These have been the two most disappointing teams in the NFL this year. Instead of a potential playoff matchup, this now looks like a game both teams need to save their season.
However, that doesn’t change what this game will be. These are largely still the same rosters that have won the last two Super Bowls. This will be a difficult, hard fought game for both these desperate teams.
Here’s how I see the matchup.
Rams WRs vs Bucs Secondary
This Rams offense has been dynamic in recent years. Cooper Kupp had one of the best receiving seasons in NFL history last year. To compliment that dynamic slot ability that Kupp brings, the Rams went out and added Allen Robinson.
This is a deep and talented group of pass catchers. Slowing them down is the key to limiting this Rams offense. This is something the Bucs haven’t been able to do in the past, but I am feeling optimistic about this game.
Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis is great in coverage against big physical wide receivers. That’s what he’ll see this weekend with Robinson. Despite Robinson being a talent upgrade over Robert Woods, who the Rams traded in the offseason, this actually makes for a better matchup for Tampa Bay.
Rams D-Line vs Bucs O-Line
Aaron Donald is the best defensive tackle I have ever seen. His strength, quickness and skill are all off the charts. Okay here isn’t an interior offensive lineman anywhere who can consistently block him one on one.
This is particularly true of backup guard Nick Leverett and second year developmental player Robert Hainsey. Neither of these guys should be on the field if the Buccaneers are fully healthy. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and they will have to deal with Donald consistently.
The rest of the Rams defensive line is filled out with good run stuffers. That will be a problem for a Bucs team that is the worst rushing team in the NFL. All in all, this is a big advantage for Los Angeles.
Matthew Stafford vs Turnovers
Matthew Stafford has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for a long time. He’s made a career out of being a gunslinger and pushing the ball downfield. Those days might be over.
There were concerns in the offseason about Stafford’s ability to throw the ball. Those concerns have become reality as he has thrown more interceptions (8) than touchdowns (7) through seven games. As much has been made about Tom Brady being washed up this year, Stafford might be done at the age of 34.
Putting pressure on Stafford will be critical. If he doesn’t have the same cannon arm that he’s had his whole career, then he will be forced to step into his throw more. This means he won’t be able to move and throw on the run.
Eventually, there will be passed up for grabs. The Bucs defense has to make these interceptions and not just deflections. These are the plays are struggling offense needs to get to put them in a better position to score.
I feel oddly confident in this game. Two underperforming teams who need a victory in the worst way. It should be an entertaining game.
Coming off the long week, expect the Bucs to look a little better. Part of that is self scouting and part is desperation. If that’s true then I expect a Buccaneers win.
Rams – 20
Bucs – 23
Don’t miss our Bucs vs. Rams Pregame Show LIVE Sunday 3pm eastern on our YouTube channel! Click the link below and Like, Subscribe and hit the notification button!
The NFL Edition
For more on this and everything Buccaneers check back here hourly at BucsReport.com