So, we meet again. LA Rams vs Buccaneers: 3rd time in 2 years.

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

It has been 117 days since the LA Rams hosted the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the feeling is still the same. The last time these two teams faced off on the gridiron, the Rams won 34-24 in dominating fashion. That was in Week 3,  a long time ago in NFL time measurements, and a lot has changed.

In this upcoming contest, everything is on the line.  Winning this game advances the victor to the NFC Championship Game. The Rams have a big opportunity on their hands, and here is how the team can advance to the next round.

There is a blueprint on how to beat Bucs QB Tom Brady-led offenses, pressure him on a consistent basis. Throughout his 21-year career, when Brady is pressured, up the middle especially, he gets uncomfortable in the pocket which leads to a blown play. Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris needs to dial up new looks, different blitzes, anything to get him to start panicking in the pocket.

The Buccaneers have a very strong offensive line that has kept their quarterback clean. Well, normally, that is. Brady has seen a pressure rate of 16.1 this season, which is the lowest of any quarterback in the league. With that being said, the line is not operating at 100 percent. Injuries to center Ryan Jensen and offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs present a big opportunity for the LA Rams‘ defense to set the tone for this game. Even if both players suit up, they will not be at 100 percent.

Attack the Bucs Weak Secondary

The Buccaneers’ defense may be ranked fifth overall in the NFL during the season, but this unit has a glaring weakness, their secondary. Throughout the 2021 season, the Bucs secondary was depleted with injuries and their corners suffered. They ranked 21st in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (238.9) while the Rams rank fifth overall in passing yards, averaging 273.1 passing yards per game.

LA Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford will be asked to air it out against their weak corners and have the firepower to do so. Rams wideout Cooper Kupp, who led the league in receptions, (145), yards (1,947), and touchdowns (16) present a major issue for the Buccaneers’ defensive backfield to handle. Not to mention the Rams’ other wide receivers, namely Odell Beckham Jr, and Van Jefferson, and the list goes on and on. Sean McVay’s play sheet for this game will be pass-heavy.

Winning The Turnover Battle

This is very obvious, but a very important part of winning this game. The Buccaneers caused 29 turnovers (5th in the NFL) and +10 in turnover differential,  while the Rams caused 25 turnovers (9th in NFL) and a +2 in turnover differential. Both defenses are capable of forcing turnovers so the team that doesn’t give the ball to the other team, will be most likely to win the game.

The Rams were dealt a huge blow to their offensive line this afternoon, as starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth will not make the trip to Tampa and is out with a knee injury, and starting safety Taylor Rapp will also be out with a concussion. Those are two massive losses on both sides of the ball that won’t be easy to replace. Sean McVay was very disappointed to report this at his press conference this afternoon.

The Buccaneers are hopeful that starting center Ryan Jensen and left tackle Tristan Wirfs will be able to play as both were participating in practice today. Starting running back Leonard Fournette the team is hopeful to play, as running back Ronald Jones will most likely miss this game. Starting wideout Breshad Perriman missed practice due to a hip injury and his status for the game is not looking promising.

Here’s What We Know

Both the Bucs and the Rams are red hot, as they are both 6-1 in their last seven games. The Buccaneers offense is the fifth-ranked offense in the NFL is missing several key contributors on offense, WR Chris Godwin(torn ACL) and WR Antonio Brown (released due to character issues).  The Buccaneers will also be without RB Ronald Jones and WR Breshad Perriman. RB Leonard Fournette is also out for this one. Those losses are massive for this team, but luckily for the Buccaneers offense, WR Mike Evans is healthy and TE Rob Gronkowski is ready to go.

The Rams’ addition of free agent WR Odell Beckham Jr has really been a godsend to this team as they lost veteran wideout Robert Woods to a torn ACL in November. Six months since tearing his Achilles, running back Cam Akers is back and looks as good as he did last season. The Rams eighth-ranked scoring offense at times this season looks unstoppable, with a balanced offensive attack.

This game is going to be the biggest challenge for the Rams. They are going to have to play a nearly perfect game to walk out of Raymond James Stadium with a victory. This is postseason when Tom Brady is most dangerous. To that end, Brady will be looking for his NFL record 36th playoff victory, and the Rams stand in their way.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford waited 13 years to win his first playoff game, and now that he has tasted postseason success, he has no plans to be one and done. Both teams have a game plan, which teams execute better on Sunday with the fewest mistakes that will determine the victor.

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