December 16, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) is hit as he throws by New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Junior Galette (93) forcing an incomplete pass during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Buccaneers 41-0. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
With only two game left in the season, and the St. Louis Rams playoffs hope all but eliminated, how does the rest of the league see the Rams finishing out the season? This week, the team goes head-to-head with another “up-and-coming team,” albeit one that seemed to have lost its way about halfway through the season. The Buccaneers have the top ranking rushing defense, but the lowest ranked pass defense, and are a mixed bag on offense, going hot-and-cold both throwing and running the football. Can the Rams stop Doug Martin in his excellent rookie campaign? Can the Bucs’ stop Steven Jackson as he treks towards his eighth consecutive 1,000 yard season? Here are the top picks from around the NFL-world…
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, who has had one foot on the St. Louis Rams bandwagon all season, picked the ‘good guys’ for the win.
"Greg Schiano can look at the team he almost coached (he was the Rams’ bridesmaid to Jeff Fisher) and the one he’s coaching. Not sure he’ll like what he sees this week, because the Bucs are slumping badly, but good programs can’t be built in one year. Rams 17, Bucs 16"
Yahoo Sports, like King, puts the focus of the game on the slumping Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Still, he doesn’t see them snapping their streak against the Rams.
"The Rams (somehow) remain mathematically alive for post-season play, while the once 6-4 Buccaneers have lost four straight and will be playing the final two games of the season for pride’s sake. Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is playing for much more. In 2013, Freeman will be entering the final year of his contract and his late season slump, which reached a new low with a four-interception performance in last week’s 41-0 loss to the Saints, may delay a new contract that could have arrived this offseason had his play warranted the club making a long-term commitment. Rams 23, Buccaneers 20"
Naturally, ESPN’s Mike Sando was less than enthusiastic about the Rams chance of winning on Sunday, although he doesn’t really care to share his thought process, aside from drooling over the ‘Hawks vs. ‘9ers game. Nothing would make me happier than the Seahawks losing two in a row to San Francisco this week and St. Louis next week, knocking them out of the playoffs!
"You mean to tell me there’s another game besides 49ers-Seahawks this week? Someone should have mentioned something about this earlier in the week. I might have actually done a blog item about it. Look, if the Buccaneers played in the NFC West, I’d be right there picking St. Louis to win. The Rams are 4-0-1 against the division, after all. Perhaps I should pick them anyway. Tampa Bay has lost four in a row. The Bucs’ victories have come mostly against horrible teams. I’ve almost talked myself into it. Almost. Sando’s best guess: Bucs 23, Rams 20."
This week, “23” seems to be the magical number for the win. Bleacher Report has St. Louis taking the victory, citing their lack of implosion as a good enough rationale for the pick.
"A month ago the Tampa Bay Buccaneers appeared to be a playoff contender in the NFC, but four straight losses punctuated by a 41-0 drubbing at the hands of the New Orleans Saints have the players and coaches at one another’s throats.Seriously, they’re fighting on the sideline.Meanwhile the St. Louis Rams have quietly made significant strides in their first year under head coach Jeff Fisher, and the team that isn’t imploding will make relatively short work of the one that is. St. Louis Rams 23, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10"
CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco has never really been up on the St. Louis Rams this season, and continues that trend this week. However, his premising argument for the loss is based off an inaccurate statement about the NFC playoff picture. I guess that’s why he makes the “big bucks,” right?
"These two were eliminated last week, so where’s the motivation? Did the Bucs quit on Greg Schiano last week? You know Jeff Fisher’s team will be ready to go. But I think Tampa Bay bounces back at home. It’s tough going on the road late with nothing at stake. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24, St. Louis Rams 17"
NFL.com seems to like the idea of Sam Bradford going up against the lowest ranking secondary in the league, even citing it as a potential statement game for the young quarterback. I am more worried about Steven Jackson reaching his 55 yard average that he needs to hit 1,000…
"Sam Bradford has an opportunity to make something of his third season in the NFL over the next two weeks and secure his status as the St. Louis Rams’ starting quarterback of the future. In Week 17, he gets a chance to prove his mettle against one of the best defenses in the NFL (Seattle). This week, Bradford should be able to exploit the worst secondary in the NFL, as least statistically speaking (4,517 gross yards and 27 touchdowns). Who knows what happened to Josh Freeman last Sunday in New Orleans, but he left some big plays on that field. The defense did its part by allowing 41 points. Rams win this one on the road to get back to .500. #STLvsTB Rams 24, Bucs 14"