What’s the best way to forget about a disappointing loss?
I’d say beating the defending NFC Champions is a good start.
Even though the Bucs (1-2) have already put last week’s debacle behind them, beating the Rams (3-0) would represent a major momentum shift. A 2-2 record is always better than 1-3, especially when you are about to hit the road for the next four weeks.
Tampa Bay opened as (+10.5) underdogs, but the line has now dropped to (+9). Will they cover? Will they win outright?
Regardless, fans and the media alike are going to find out a lot about this team on Sunday.
- All-time series history: The Rams lead 14-8. The Bucs are 7-7 at home and just 1-7 on the road.
- Playoff history: Tampa Bay is 0-2, with both losses coming in NFC Championship contests (1979 & 1999)
- Longest win streak: Los Angeles won six in a row from 1984-1992.
- Largest victory: A 35-3 blowout represents the largest margin of victory between these two teams. The Rams destroyed the Bucs in that 1987 matchup.
- 2019 offensive and defensive rankings: Tampa Bay currently sits at 13th offensively (20th pass, 8th run) and 14th defensively (21st pass, 6th run ). Los Angeles isn’t too far behind with the 16th-best offense (23rd pass, 7th run) and 3rd-best defense (5th pass, 11th run).
What To Watch For
- The Bucs’ offensive line vs. the Rams’ defensive line: This will likely determine the outcome of the game.
- Can Tampa Bay’s defense close off the middle of the field: The Rams live in the middle of the field and Jared Goff struggles when he has to throw to the boundary.
- Third-down offense: The Bucs are just 6/26 (23%) on third down over the last two games. This has to get better on Sunday.
- Rebound game for the secondary: They will certainly be tested this week. Can they bounce back from a poor game against the Giants?
- Misdirection: How Byron Leftwich mixes in play action, RPOs, counter plays, etc. will determine a lot of the offense’s success.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- QB Jameis Winston: He will need to have his best game of the season if the Bucs want to win.
- TE OJ Howard: This should be Howard’s best game of 2019.
- WR Mike Evans: The Bucs will need their best player to step it up again.
- DT Vita Vea: Stopping Todd Gurley starts here.
- OLB Shaquil Barrett: Keep it rollin, Shaq. You will be needed in a big way.
- CB Vernon Hargreaves III: The secondary has to be better and VHIII will be a crucial piece in stopping the Rams’ passing attack.
Los Angeles Rams
- QB Jared Goff: He’s been up-and-down in 2019, but is still the leader of the offense.
- RB Todd Gurley: Even though he hasn’t been used as much, he is still what makes this offense go.
- WR Cooper Kupp: Whomever is on Kupp will need to lock him down, or else it’ll be a long day on defense for the Bucs.
- DT Aaron Donald: Just like Saquon Barkley last week: if you don’t know about this guy, it’s your own damn fault.
- OLB Dante Fowler Jr.: He’s finally showing what made him a top-5 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
- S John Johnson III: One of the most underrated safeties in the NFL, he will need to be neutralized in some regard.
- Barrett has 8.0 sacks this season, tied for the most by any NFL player through three games since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. He needs one sack to tie Mark Gastineau (9.0 in 1984, N.Y. Jets), Kabeer Gbaja- Biamila (9.0 in 2001, Green Bay) and Kevin Greene (9.0 in 1998, Carolina) for the most sacks through four games in NFL history.
- Barrett recorded 4.0 sacks against the Giants. With at least four sacks against the Rams, he will be the first player in NFL history to post consecutive games with four or more sacks.
- Barrett has registered at least 3.0 sacks in each of the past two games. With at least three sacks against the Rams, he will be the first player in NFL history to post three consecutive games with at least three sacks.
- If Barrett records at least two sacks at the Rams, he will join Simeon Rice as the only players in Buccaneers history to record multiple sacks in three consecutive games. Rice shares the NFL record for consecutive multi-sack games, with five in 2002 (also Kevin Greene, 1997-98).
- The Buccaneers totaled 144 rushing yards against the Giants. If the team reaches at least 140 rushing yards at the Rams, it will mark the first time Tampa Bay has posted consecutive games with at least 140 rushing yards since 2015 (three consecutive: 10/4/15 vs. Carolina-10/25/15 at Washington).
*Stats provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Communications Department
Like I said in the intro, this is the week where we really find out what this team is made of.
Will we see another performance like the tough, gritty road win in Carolina? Or will we see the same outcomes that we saw against San Francisco and New York?
No one wants moral victories, especially when your franchise is on the brink of facing the longest playoff drought in the NFL, but a competitive game would go a long way toward restoring confidence in this team, especially when most are considering this game a blowout that will favor the Rams.
This is the last ticket I’ll buy on the optimistic train. After this game, realism will kick in no matter the outcome. The Bucs find enough matchups to exploit and win a tough one.