Sunday’s NFL doubleheader begins with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Los Angeles Rams. When they met in September, the Rams won 34-24 at home. However, the Rams have to make the trip to Tampa this weekend, with the Bucs favored by 2.5 points at home with the over/under set at 48 points.
The Buccaneers were dominant for long stretches of their Wild Card win over the Eagles last week. With that win, they’ve now won eight of their last nine games, building momentum in their quest for a second straight Super Bowl. Of course, only two of those eight wins have come against playoff teams.
Likewise, the Rams looked equally dominant in their Wild Card win over the Cardinals. There were some concerns in Los Angeles after their five-game winning streak was snapped in Week 18. But they cruised to an easy win and now hit the road, having won two of their last three road playoff games.
Matthew Stafford’s first playoff game with the Rams went well, although they didn’t need much out of him, as he only attempted 17 passes. It’s important to keep in mind that he threw eight interceptions over the final four games of the regular season, so there are some lingering concerns. But with Odell Beckham continuing to play a big role alongside Cooper Kupp and Cam Akers also back in the fold, the LA offense has some serious playmakers around Stafford.
The Los Angeles defense also looks to be rounding into form late in the season. Granted, the Arizona offense that struggled late in the season, but the Rams were impressive last week, keeping the Cardinals under 200 total yards and forcing two turnovers. The Rams also know they have difference-makers like Aaron Donald and Von Miller on that side of the ball.
The Tampa offense is far from full strength right now, but Tom Brady still seems to have more than enough around him. Mike Evans had a massive game last week, while Rob Gronkowski was also a frequent target. Ronald Jones is still set to sit this week, but Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard did a fine job of filling in with Bernard becoming a factor in the passing game.
Defensively, the Buccaneers also have to feel good about where they sit heading into the Divisional Round. Outside of one play, the Tampa defense took away the running game from the NFL’s best rushing team last week. The Bucs also know that they have impact players at all three levels, especially with sack-leader Shaquil Barret back to full health.
It’s never easy to bet against Brady in games like this, especially with the Buccaneers losing just once at home this season. But Stafford is also capable of playing at a high level, and it’s easy to argue that the Rams have better offensive playmakers than the Bucs.
At the same time, the Bucs have a couple of concerning injury questions along the offensive line and gave up four sacks last week. The Rams surely have the type of pass rush that can take advantage of that. Unless Stafford has a horrible game and turns the ball over, look for the Rams to pull off the road win.
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