WHAT BETTER TEAM TO RIGHT THE SHIP AGAINST THAN THE ONE WHO ENDED YOUR SEASON EARLY LAST YEAR!
This is the week. This is when it happens. This is the game where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turn this season around. This is where they get their revenge on the team that knocked them out of the playoffs and ended their season early last year. This is where they get the Rams off their back.
I feel it.
Of course, I felt the same way last week too and we all know how that game turned out. Hopefully, this week is different. Hopefully, this Buccaneers team remembers what the Rams did to them in the second round of the playoffs last season and how they ended their season early. Hopefully, they still have that “unfinished business” that they were talking about all offseason.
The Rams have had a similarly disappointing season as the Bucs so far. The Super Bowl LVI champions have had a major championship hangover this year and are struggling to play good football. Sound familiar? It’s gut check time, so let’s take a look at this upcoming matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the LA Rams.
LA RAMS (3-4)
The Rams are struggling almost as bad as the Bucs right now having lost three of their last four games. They are currently 30th in the league on offense averaging just 297 total yards and 17 points per game. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has had a disappointing season so far passing for 1,763 yards, just 7 touchdowns and 8 interceptions while averaging just 6.8 yards per completion. He’s also been sacked 24 times in 7 games.
On defense, the Rams are ranked 5th allowing just 311 total yards per game, but they are giving up 23 points per game as well. Linebacker Bobby Wagner leads the team in tackles (51). Defensive tackle Aaron Donald leads the team in sacks (4) and tackles for loss (7). And cornerback Jalen Ramsey leads the team in passes defensed (7). They have superstars at every level of this defense, but they’ve still allowed 24+ points in four of their seven games this year.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
OFFENSE : WR Cooper Kupp
Kupp IS the offense for the Rams at this point. With 686 receiving yards, 51 rushing yards and 6 total touchdowns, he accounts for nearly 40% of their offense. Translation. Slow up Kupp, you stop the Rams. The problem is that the Bucs haven’t been able to do that. In the 4 games he has faced Tampa Bay, he’s totaled 38 catches on 51 targets for 545 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Bucs have to do a better job of limiting his production, especially after the way he single handedly ended the their playoff run last season.
DEFENSE : DT Aaron Donald
He’s just a game-wrecker. He’s the best football player on the planet and he proves it every time he steps on the field. He has to be accounted for on every snap and double-teamed as much as possible, or he will wreak havoc in the backfield.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (3-5)
Where do I start with this team? A disappointing season is turning more disastrous by the week. They have lost three straight and five of their last six games. The offense has been disgraceful, ranked 21st totaling just 333 total yards and 18 points per game. They have scored just 146 points in 8 games so far. The only NFC teams to score less points this season are the Commanders (142), the Packers (145) and the Rams (118).
On defense, they’ve been inconsistent and mediocre at best. They now rank 11th allowing just 326 total yards and 18 points per game. The Bucs D usually starts games good, but the problem is that they’re on the field too much because the offense can’t sustain drives. Late in the game, the snaps start adding up and the defense wears down and eventually breaks. Another problem for this defense is turnovers. They haven’t forced one in 4 games.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
OFFENSE : RB Rachaad White
I feel like his time is coming. Leonard Fournette hasn’t been playing up to his usual standards and White has been seeing more and more touches each week. Look for him to get more opportunities in this game. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up splitting snaps with Fournette more evenly this week.
DEFENSE : OLB Anthony Nelson
With Shaq Barrett out for the rest of the season, the Bucs will need someone to step up and fill in for him. When Nelson does get in the game, he is productive. He has 2 sacks this season in his limited play, so look for him to take advantage of this opportunity and cause some disruption today.
1. Mike Evans vs Jalen Ramsey
Best vs Best is always fun to watch. Ramsey is one of the best, if not THE best cover corner in football and Evans is one of the best receivers in the league.
2. Tom Brady vs Himself
Brady has been battling more off-the-field turmoil and personal problems than ever before in his career and I think it’s effected his play on the field. He’s been uncharacteristicly missing open receivers and missing throws. He’s been uncomfortable in the pocket and indecisive with his reads. He’s only thrown one pick this season and he’s one of the least sacked QB’s in the NFL, but he’s only thrown 9 touchdowns this season and his yards per completion is at a career-low. After 8 games in 2020, he had 25 touchdowns. Last year after 8 games, he had 20 touchdowns. He hasn’t been himself and he knows it. Hopefully, with the divorce behind him and his personal life settling down, he’ll get back to playing like the GOAT on the football field.
3. Devin White vs Himself
Unlike Brady, I’m not sure what White’s excuse is for the way he’s played over the last month. According to ProFootballFocus.com, he’s been one of the lowest graded off-the-ball linebackers in all of football and his missed tackle rate is one of the highest in the league. Every week, I keep hoping that he snaps out of his funk and starts playing like the 5th pick that he was, but he keeps letting me down. However, after taking some public criticism about his lack of effort on some plays against the Ravens, I think he’s going to shine today.
The Bucs have officially ruled “OUT” tight end Cam Brate (neck), wide receiver Russell Gage (hamstring), left guard Luke Goedeke (foot) and safety Antoine Winfield Jr (concussion). They have three more players listed as “QUESTIONABLE” on their final injury report including cornerback Carlton Davis III (hip), cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (quad) and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (foot), but all three should be playing today.
The Rams have just one player ruled “OUT” for this game in linebacker Jacob Hummel (hip). The only other players listed on their final injury report are wide receiver Van Jefferson (knee) and center Brian Allen (knee), but both should be available for this game.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. STOP COOPER KUPP!
I said it before and I’ll keep saying it until the Bucs defense does it. You can’t “stop” a player like Kupp, but you have to limit his production. You have to keep him from being the gamechanger and effecting the outcome.
2. FORCE TURNOVERS!
The Bucs D hasn’t done it in over a month, but today could be the day the “Gravediggers” get it going. A turnover or two would go a long way with helping the Bucs get a win today.
3. LONG SCORING DRIVES!
The Bucs have to sustain drives today. They have to convert third downs. And they have to score touchdowns in the redzone. They have to start getting their defense more time to rest on the sideline and the best way to do that is for them to stay on the field longer.
ODDS & ENDS
Bucs -7 and Over/Under is 42.5
WHERE TO WATCH
Kickoff – 4:25 pm Channel – CBS
I’m torn this week. Last week I picked the Raven 30-13 over the Bucs. I was pretty close if it hadn’t been for that late garbage time touchdown by Tampa Bay. I said a couple weeks ago that I wouldn’t pick the Bucs to win again until they proved to me that they could do so consistently. But this is the Rams. I hate the Rams. Not as much as I hate the Saints, but I’ve hated the Rams since that 1999 playoff game where Bert Emmanuel was robbed of his catch. I don’t want to pick the Bucs, but I just can’t pick the Rams. Brady gets the offense going and White amps up the “Gravediggers“. Bucs win.
BUCS 34 RAMS 20
THE WRAP UP
Both of these teams NEED this win, so it’s going to come down to which team WANTS it more. The Bucs would like to avoid a fourth straight loss. The Rams would like to avoid dropping to 3-5 for the season. This is a turning point. It’s THE turning point. Lavonte David knows that. He’s been through enough of these types of season to know that it’s time to put up or shut up. That’s probably why he called a “players only” meeting after their loss to the Ravens on Thursday night. What was said during that meeting we’ll probably never know. But I’m hoping the Bucs players had a come to Jesus moment that lights a fire under their ass. We’ll see if that’s the case this afternoon. So now that you know everything you need to know about the Bucs matchup with the Rams, there’s only one thing left to say.