Buccaneers - Rams Big Dang Preview

This man can deliver pain. - Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, the world didn't end - so we have to endure another Bucs game.

Now that the Philadelphia Eagles have beaten the Bucs twice (once by themselves and the next week in giving the Bucs nothing to play for against the Saints), you have to wonder if this football team will show the lack of heart it displayed last season when they quit on Raheem Morris.

Already rumblings out of One Buc Palace have players saying "Can we send these coaches back to college?" and we had an incident on the sideline involving a player and a coach.

Still, I don't believe the cracks are showing in the foundation. There's a number of bad apples in Tampa Bay. Schiano did a good job at clearing most of them out, but it looks like there's still work to be done.

What would cure all of this bickering would be a win.

Do they have the heart to fight for it?

Series: 11-8 Rams

Last Meeting: October 2010, Tampa Bay 18, St. Louis 17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Game vs. St. Louis Rams Pass Defense

Josh Freeman has been embroiled in a firestorm of criticism this week after his five turnover performance against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Some of it was deserved but let's not toss the baby out with the bathwater here.

Freeman is the same quarterback who through the month of October and November was one of the best in the league. Has he slumped this last month of the season? No question. However, we've seen him lead one of the most prolific offenses in Buccaneer history and he is on pace to break Brad Johnson's team records for touchdown passes and passing yards in a single season.

He still has weapons in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, along with Doug Martin out of the backfield. Dallas Clark has also become a factor.

Defensively, the Rams (ranked 9th overall in total defense) will likely be the Bucs toughest challenge since the Broncos. St. Louis is ranked 9th against the pass, giving up just 217 yds a game. They're led by 2nd year former first round pick Robert Quinn who has 9.5 sacks.

Rookie Janoris Jenkins has been solid for the Rams, leading the team with 3 interceptions and scoring two touchdowns.

Edge: Push

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Running Game vs. St. Louis Rams Run Defense

The Bucs and Rams have been going in opposite directions in running the ball and conversely stopping the run.

While the Bucs were very successful earlier in the year at toting the rock, Tampa Bay's Doug Martin has been slowing down toward the end of the season. Martin has just one 100 yd rushing day in his past four games and has been held under 70 yards in four of his last six games.

While the Rams are ranked 16th against the run, they've been better in their three game winning streak before last week's loss to Minnesota. St. Louis held two of their three opponents under 75 yds total rushing.

Edge: Push

St. Louis Rams Passing Game vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Defense.

We all know about the Bucs pass defense...or as I like to call it - the "ERMAGERD DAYS THRONET" defense.

There's no reason to beat that dead horse.

Now, Sam Bradford is an interesting case. The Rams injury prone quarterback has made it through this season fairly well and has put up some pedestrian numbers. He's tied his career high in touchdown passes (18) and has kept his interceptions down to just 11 on the year.

Bradford has only thrown for more than 221 yards five times this season and had only his second three touchdown game of the season against the Vikings.

Danny Amendola is back from injury and leading the Rams receiving core in catches and yards.

Edge: St. Louis

St. Louis Rams Rushing attack vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Run Defense

We've talked about it all season, the Bucs amazing run defense. Yet it finally cracked last week, surrendering 149 yds to the anemic New Orleans Saints rushing attack.

To get back on track, they'll face the original beast mode, Steven Jackson. Jackson hasn't been quite as dominant as he has been in past years rushing for just over 900 yds and only 4 touchdowns this season but he can still hurt a defense that isn't willing to go in there and drop a hat.

If the Bucs hope to win on Sunday, keeping Jackson under wraps is the only way it's going to happen.

Edge: Tampa Bay

Special Teams

Connor Barth is finishing up another solid season in the kicking duties for Tampa Bay while Michael Koenen is trying to get his mojo back in what's been a disappointing year for him.

Roscoe Parrish is now handling both the kick and punt return duties and scared no one until his impressive 39 yd put return last week.

The Ram's kicker Greg Zuerlein may have a low percentage for a kicker in the NFL, but it's a little misleading. Zuerlein has a long of 60 yds and no kicker has attempted more kicks of 50+.

Johnny Hecker is handling the punting duties for the Rams and doing a solid job, averaging 45.4 yds a punt.

Chris Givens and Isaiah Pead have split the kick return duties while Amendola has handled the punt returns.

Edge: Push

Outlook

So, here where are at the end of the 5th consecutive Buccaneer season that will end with no playoff berth. It's been a long, roller coaster type season for Tampa Bay but the truth of the matter is - what you're remembered for is how you finish.

There will be plenty of fans out there who would rather see the team lose these final two games to get a better draft pick. Folks, a higher draft pick never guarantees a quicker rise. How many busts have we seen over the years?

No, I think it's vitally important the Bucs don't go out like punks this season. They can't do to Schiano what the did to Raheem. If they're already in vacation mode, then to be quite honest, I'm not sure how much hope there is for 2013 - because to be a playoff team you must play with heart, even through adversity.

I hope I'm wrong - but we've seen this story with the Bucs. Philadelphia did more damage to Tampa Bay than any injury ever could. It took their will to fight. We'll learn a lot in the next two games about how this bunch really feels about coach Schiano.

The bottom line, Schiano is going to be here next year - will these players?

I'm picking the Rams this week because frankly, I think they want it a little more than the Bucs do.

Prediction: St. Louis 23, Tampa Bay 13

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