STAR PREVIEW Sun: Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Los Angeles Rams
ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.
Both teams sit at 2-0, both have Super Bowl aspirations although in the case of the Buccaneers it’s a case of been there and done it last year and trying to go back-to-back whereas with the Rams it’s a case of trying to reach those heights. In truth this could well be a dress rehearsal for the NFC Championship Game but we can’t get ahead of ourselves although this matchup will provide a good barometer for both teams who have come through their available tests so far but now face their biggest obstacle.
Offensively Tampa Bay under the tutelage of quarterback Tom Brady have been a machine once they clicked into gear halfway through last season and they have now registered 30 or more in nine straight games including the post-season and they will provide the first real test for this Rams defence.
A defence that contains two stud players in defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey; two of the NFL’s defensive stars. Brady has enough offensive material though and veteran smarts to counter those two and he’s off to a hot start this year with nine passing touchdowns to his name already.
Wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans lead a strong and deep Buccaneers receiving group that can also call on Brady’s all-time favourite target tight-end Rob Gronkowski who has hit at least one touchdown in three straight games. The Rams have proved vulnerable to the tight-end position already this year and Gronkowski could well be adding to his touchdown numbers. Godwin has so far proved the bigger receiving threat and appears to have some real chemistry with Brady and he leads the Buccaneers in catches (13), yards (167), and first-down conversions (11) on Brady’s throws.
As much as Tampa Bay are adept at moving the ball well on offence and putting big totals on the board so are the Rams and their new quarterback Matthew Stafford (ex-Lions) has proved a superior model to the previous signal caller Jared Goff. Stafford looks to have settled in quickly in L.A. after 12 seasons in Detroit where his chance of winning anything was negligible and he’s provided the spark that the Rams offence needed.
Stafford’s 599 passing yards are the second most through two games by a Rams QB over the past 20 seasons and his chance of improving those numbers is enhanced by one or two injuries on the Tampa Bay defence specifically the news that defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul won’t play.
The other significant injury news is that Tampa Bay slot cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting is missing and that will give Stafford a significant advantage when trying to find slot wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Kupp has established a real rapour with Stafford and he’s looking to become the fourth player in the Super Bowl era with 100 receiving yards and a TD reception in each of the first three games in a season.
Kupp is worth paying attention to once the player prop markets become available; Kupp has eight more catches, 177 more yards, and five more first-down conversions than any other Rams receiver through two games.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Los Angeles Rams
Tampa Bay are hard to run on and that only uplifts the fact that I expect to see Stafford use his aerial threats much more in this game and it would be folly to ignore the likes of wide receiver Robert Woods and tight-end Tyler Higbee whom the Rams have yet to utilise fully.
All in all we can expect a fast-paced, up-tempo game here with Tampa Bay operating at the league’s second-fastest pace, throwing at the second-highest rate, and they have faced the highest opponent pass rate. That last statistic should encourage a Rams offense that already has the sixth-highest pass rate above expectation to air the ball out even more especially with a quarterback like Stafford at the helm; he already has three touchdown passes of 15 yards or more.
This sets up to be another game where the total points line is going to be tested and it’s no surprise to see that set at +53.5 but this Tampa Bay defence is going to be tested here and whilst allowing 29 points to the Cowboys is forgivable giving up 25 points and 69 snaps to the Falcons isn’t. Play like that against this quick-strike Rams offence and they will be able to breach the +27.5 points line that has been set.
In handicap terms this game is a real close one (Buccaneers -1.5) and whilst Tampa Bay have covered in eight of their past 11 games, dating back to last season (including the playoffs), Los Angeles has covered seven of its past eight meetings with the Bucs. Like the earlier SKY contest I think we are set for an entertaining game and once again the total touchdowns market at +6.5 is very much in play.
⚠️ Stakes advised on a scale of 0-10 points depending on confidence from our preview team
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