Special to Sports Talk Florida
Monday night we learned who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face in the second round of the playoffs. The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals in convincing fashion to round out Wildcard Weekend. This means the Rams will travel east this Sunday to take on the Bucs.
This will be the second time these two teams have met this year and the first one did not go well if you’re a Buccaneers fan. The week three clash was a 34-24 Rams win that wasn’t as close as the final score looked. Many things have changed since then, but the one thing that hasn’t is that this will be the Bucs most difficult game of the season.
It all starts with the Rams passing game. Matthew Stafford is one of the most productive quarterbacks in NFL history. He Ranks 12th all time in passing yards and 12th all time in passing touchdowns. His arm strength and fearlessness make him one of the most exciting big play quarterbacks in the game today. However, this does include big plays for the opposing defense at times as he led the league in interceptions.
Stafford is joined by a pair of dynamic pass catchers. Cooper Kupp is an excellent route runner and separator. He has always been one of the best slot receivers in the game, but has really taken things to the next level this year. His 1947 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns make for one of the greatest seasons in NFL history. Opposite him is Odell Beckham Jr who has been absolutely dynamic at times in his career. He has a bit of an Antonio Brown type personality, which is why he was released from Cleveland mid season, but when he’s right mentally he’s one of the best playmakers in football.
Stopping this three headed monster will be top priority for the Buccaneers. This obviously won’t be an easy task. Not only are these some of the best players in the NFL, but the quickness and route running ability of these receivers are a bad matchup for the Bucs big physical corners. If the Bucs can’t force Stafford into a turnover or two then it could turn into a long day.
I don’t want this to sound like hyperbole, but the Rams have a few of the greatest defensive players of all time on their roster. There is no doubt in my mind that Aaron Donald is the best defensive tackle in NFL history. The real debate is weather or not he’s the best defensive player there ever was. His three defensive player of the year awards and nearly 100 career sacks speak for themselves.
Additionally, the Rams traded for Denver Broncos historic pass rusher Von Miller. Miller ranks 22nd all time in career sacks and is one of the best pass rushers of the 21st century. At 32 years old he is still playing at a high level, racking up 9.5 sacks this season.
Finally Jalen Ramsey rounds out this trio of great defenders. The sixth year corner out of Florida State has made the Pro Bowl five times in his young career. He combines great size (6’1 and 205 lbs) and athletic ability which allows him to do everything you could ask of him at a high level.
The Buccaneers can’t let these three derail the game for them on Sunday. Considering the injuries the Bucs have at offensive line and receivers, it’s concerning to have to go up against this particular group of stars.
Considering how the Rams offense is built, it’s no surprise that they’re the 5th best team in the NFL when it comes to passing yards and 2nd in passing touchdowns. They rank just 24th in rushing yards per game, but they just activated running back Cam Akers off injured reserved last week and he looked sharp against the Cardinals.
Defensively the Rams are no slouch either. They allow the 9th fewest points per game, led by the 5th best run defense in the NFL. They have been more vulnerable through the air at 21st in passing yards allowed per game. That could be true now more than ever as the Rams have a few injuries in their secondary, notably at safety.
The Rams are both very talented as well as a bad matchup for the Buccaneers. Where Tampa Bay is vulnerable is where the Rams will oppose them with their greatest strengths. Playing at home this time around will help the Bucs, but it will take their best performance of the season to advance this week.
Rams – 27
Buccaneers – 30