In week 3 of the regular season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers flew to California to take on the new look, ugly uniform Los Angeles Rams. Surprisingly to some, the Rams had their way with Brady and Bucs in a one sided victroy for L.A. 34 - 24.
Brady threw the ball all over the place for 432 yards and a touchdown. Stafford had an even better day throwing for 343 yards and 4 TD passes. Neither team ran the ball particularly well but things have changed. The Rams have been running the football quite well with Sony Michel and now the return of Cam Akers. That combo and their offensive line smashed the Cardinals in the wild card round.
courtesy of USA Today
As for the Bucs, Leonard Fournette had become one of their top offensive weapons and he may not be a full go in this game. Not to mention back up runnning back Ronald Jones II is also banged up and probably won't play. However, Ke'Shawn Vaughn has stepped up for Brady and the Bucs big time. Also given the fact that Tampa has one of the best offensive lines in football, they can successfully run the ball with a variety of players in the backfield. Even little Gio Bernard ran for a touchdown against the Eagles in the wild card round.
We all know Tom Brady loves throwing that football but with Chris Godwin out for the season and Antonio Brown flipped out for the rest of the season, Tampa Tom will have to rely on quick throws to Gronk, Johnson, Brate and Miller. Mike Evans is their best remaining receiver but he's more of a downfield threat. Will Brady have the time to set up those plays with Aaron Donald and company trying to break through that great offensive line? It may have just got easier as Tristan Wirfs injured his ankle against the Eagles as did center Ryan Jensen who may not play in this crucial game either.
The banged up Bucs certainly have their issues but they still have Tom Brady. Brady is also fortunate to have an excellent run stopping defense, 3rd in the NFL, so they will game plan around Stafford throwing the ball often and trying to lure him into a mistake or two and create turnovers in the secondary.
Getting pressure on the quarterback is vital to winning the football game. I always say the game is won and lost at the line of scrimmage and both of these teams have good lines on both sides of the ball. Whichever side plays better on Sunday will win the game. If Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh can get through the Rams O-Line and disrupt the the passing game then we can see head coach Sean McVay get a little crazy on the sidelines. Unless Aaron Donald and Von Miller save the day by returning the favor.
courtesy of Los Angeles Times
McVay is known for using the run game to set up the pass. The Bucs can stop that run game and force the Rams to throw more often than they'd like. If Tampa is prepared for this scenario then I see them winning the game.
The problem is that the Rams are more healthy and at this point have more play makers on offense and defense. The Bucs have got jolt on defense with the return of Lavonte David and Shaq Barrett but I'm not sure that's enough to handle all of the Rams weapons. Now with OBJ feeling it, Van Jefferson making big plays, Tyler Higbee playing big boy tight end and of course Cooper Kupp who won the receiving triple crown this year, the Bucs have their hands full with trying to stop this offense.
If Tampa were more healthy then my prediction may be different. But it's not! I see the Rams moving the ball up and down the field with limited mistakes. However I see Tom Brady leading his offense north and south as they still can get the ball in the end zone. Check down Brady may be in full effect and the Rams will be ready for it. Prediction: Rams 31 - Buccaneers 26