It’s been 21 long days since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) last played on Monday Night Football and Bruce Arians’ squad is hoping to move to 2-0 under the lights when the Los Angeles Rams (6-3) come to Raymond James Stadium.
This won’t be an easy game. At all. And it could have major playoff ramifications down the line.
If this game isn’t the ultimate context of November football, then I don’t know what is.
- All-time series: LA leads the all-time series, 16-9.
- Longest win streak: The Rams won six games in a row from 1984-1992.
- Largest margin of victory: You have to go a ways back to find the 35-3 beatdown the Rams gave the Bucs back in ‘87. I wasn’t even born yet.
- 2020 offensive and defensive rankings: Tampa Bay currently boasts the 15th-best offense (9th passing, 21st rushing) and the third-ranked defense (9th passing, 1st rushing). The Rams own the fourth-best offense (11th passing, 7th rushing) and the top-ranked defense (2nd passing, 5th rushing).
What To Watch For
- Another week of no Ali: This marks the third straight week that the talented left guard will not play due to a concussion and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Marpet was a major reason the Bucs slowed down Aaron Donald and co. last year. Concussions are always serious and are something to worry about, but it’s officially time to board the worry bus in the context of Marpet.
- The Bucs’ pass protection vs. the Rams’ pass rush: LA’s defensive line has the sixth-most sacks (31) and the sixth-best adjusted sack rate in the NFL while the Bucs’ offensive line have the fifth-best adjusted sack rate. The Bucs can balance Marpet’s absence with a quicker passing game, but that would obviously fly in the face of Arians’ vertical offense. Will the offensive line hold up if the Bucs decide to stick to their guns?
- Tampa Bay’s receivers vs. Los Angeles’ secondary: Yea, we all know about Jalen Ramsey. The crappy thing is that the Rams have several other talented defensive backs and new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley knows how to put them in position to succeed. Staley loves to deploy dime packages/blitzes and will certainly have some drawn up for this matchup. The Bucs’ receivers —if they can get enough time— have to win their battles tonight.
- No Andrew Whitworth: Just like the Bucs, the Rams are missing their best offensive lineman. Whitworth went down with an MCL injury last week against the Seahawks and won’t come back for a while. Joe Noteboom played well in his stead, but the Bucs’ pass rush is a much different animal than the Hawks’ pass rush. We’ll see how the Rams fare without their best guy in the trenches (on the offense, of course).
- Aaron Donald: If you follow football, then you know who this guy is and what he can do. There’s a chance Donald ends up as the most disruptive defensive lineman in NFL history. There will literally be times where he is triple-teamed tonight. Regardless, if you’re a fan of the game then you have to respect what Donald does, even if it’s against your team.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- QB Tom Brady: There’s no doubt that this Rams game is now the most important game of the season — for now.
- RB Ronald Jones II: This could be a big night for Jones. It just all depends on how that offensive line plays.
- WR Antonio Brown: Brown is in good position to make an impact in primetime. Brady just needs the time to find him.
- OLB Jason Pierre-Paul: The Bucs need to take advantage of Andrew Whitworth’s absence and it all starts with JPP.
- MLB Devin White: The Rams use a ton of play action and misdirection, counters, etc. tend to take advantage of White’s speed and aggressiveness. It’s absolutely crucial he play fast but disciplined against the Rams.
- S Jordan Whitehead: He’ll need to play his best game of the year tonight. Whitehead’s box presence will be very important, but his coverage abilities —which are questioned at times— will be tested in a major way in this game.
Los Angeles Rams
- QB Jared Goff: He’s playing OK this year, but the Bucs need to make sure they throw him off rhythm. If they can do that, then there’s a good shot they can slow down the offense.
- RB Darrell Henderson Jr.: While Henderson Jr. hasn’t had many carries, he’s one of the most efficient backs in the league. He makes every carry count, so the Bucs will need to make every defensive snap count when he’s on the field.
- TE Tyler Higbee: The Rams love their tight ends and the Bucs are still having issues defending the position. Two and two makes four, right?
- DL Aaron Donald: I mean, duh. This is as automatic as Brady.
- CB Jalen Ramsey: This is about as guaranteed as Donald and Brady.
- CB Darious Williams: This kid is on fire right now. It’s going to be interesting to see how he handles his assignments tonight.
- In the win over the Panthers, Jones rushed for a 98-yard touchdown, scoring the longest offensive touchdown in team history and becoming one of just four players in NFL history to record a run of 98-or-more yards.
- The Bucs have found success through the air in the red zone, recording 20 red zone passing touchdowns, the most in the NFL this season.
- Tampa Bay totaled 334 net passing yards and 210 rushing yards at Carolina. With at least 300 net passing yards and 200 rushing yards the Buccaneers would join the 1984 Miami Dolphins as the only teams in NFL history to post consecutive such games.
- At Carolina, Brady threw for three touchdown passes, with no interceptions. With at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions against L.A. Rams, he will join Josh Freeman (10/21/12 vs. New Orleans-10/25/12 at Minnesota) as the only players in franchise history to post consecutive such games.
- The Buccaneers offense has scored a touchdown on 28-of40 trips inside the red zone this season, while leading the NFL with a 97.5 scoring percentage (39-of-40) on red zone drives.
*Stats provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Communications Department
If Marpet were playing in this game, I would pick Tampa Bay to win. But since he’s not, I have to pick the Rams.
That’s how much Marpet means in this game.
It’s just very hard for me to see the Bucs doing much on offense without Marpet. This is no disrespect to A.Q. Shipley and Ryan Jensen, who played very well against the Panthers last week. However, the Rams defense/defensive front is not even in the same universe as the Panthers. It’s lightyears ahead.
And the Rams know their identity on both sides of the ball, while the Bucs are still figuring things out, believe it or not. We are still only two weeks away from the massacre in New Orleans. Tampa Bay is still working out the kinks.
I think the Bucs will compete, but they won’t have enough to get it done in the end and will fall to 7-4 on the season as a result.