Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFC Divisional Round: Odds, Analysis and Prediction

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The fact that the Los Angeles Rams are in the 2021-2022 Divisional Round (they will face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) this coming weekend should be of little surprise to many football fans. Yes, it was the Arizona Cardinals who were the season’s early NFC surprise, due to their first eight weeks disrupting the balance of power in the NFL. But Week 8 saw them fall from ‘undefeated’ status in a loss to the highly-regarded Green Bay Packers, a team that entered that contest at 6-1.

Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFC Divisional Round Matchup Deserves Attention

With a somewhat watered-down Wild Card playoff weekend in the rearview mirror the universe seems to be back in alignment. The Rams merciless mauling of the Cardinals should have earned them a bit more respect but as implied, things are normal again. Tom Brady gets top-billing here with another postseason appearance as he tries to get to and win yet another Super Bowl. Plus, this game is the opening act for one of the most anticipated matchups of the season so far, the Kansas City Chiefs versus the Buffalo Bills, the two highest-flying spectacles still standing in the NFL. And these storylines follow the question of whether the gutsy San Francisco 49ers have enough fight left to upset the top-seeded Packers, who are suddenly the healthiest NFC team. But here is  a look at the upcoming Sunday afternoon matchup of the Rams and Buccaneers.

One can argue, this Rams at Bucs NFC divisional playoff round deserves more respect and attention than did Super Bowl LIII (53) in 2018-19. Both teams may be better than each of those teams back then. Both teams are certainly more interesting, without question. And it would be pretty close to shocking if the point total from that Rams and New England Patriots contest was not doubled this weekend by the start of the fourth quarter. All signs point to this game having much more intrigue than the last time the Rams and a Brady-led team met with so much at stake. It probably won’t be on Las Vegas boards, but it certainly should have more highlights.

NFC Divisional Round Information

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14-4 (overall) versus Los Angeles Rams 13-5 (overall) 

Date: Sunday, January, 23 / Time: 12:00 PM (Pacific), Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, FL

Odds: Currently Bucs by -3 (48.5 over/under)

Don’t be surprised if this game turns out to be the closest contest of the Divisional Round weekend.

As mentioned earlier, the Rams deserve a bit more respect than they are currently getting among the remaining teams. But they will not get it until they beat the Buccaneers this weekend. Never mind that the Rams are undefeated (2-0) against Brady since he left the Patriots. Now they are facing postseason Brady and it is well-documented how they have stacked up to that version.

It should also be noted that the Buccaneers, who have won eight of their last nine games, have been more consistent than the Rams. Tampa Bay’s defense can be expected to elevate their game. But their championship intensity (or hunger) has yet to be equaled a season later. Todd Bowles is a great defensive coordinator but he is not the in-game envelope pusher/manipulator Bill Belichick is, but maybe no one is.

Missing Pieces

It is not a huge secret that the Bucs will dink and dunk to their heart’s content. Their offensive line is banged up so they will have little choice. Center Ryan Jensen was ‘spotted’ at practice Thursday but it was only briefly during the media’s access, as per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. Tackle Tristan Wirfs was not spotted but running back Leonard Fournette was seen in pads though he is still a game-time decision. Linebacker Lavonte David is hobbled a bit and he is a playmaker.

Brady will not have the likes of Chris Godwin, who has torched the Rams in the past, or the talents of Antonio Brown. Godwin is on injured/reserve and Brown was released by the team.

The Rams should focus on Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans while pressuring Brady and then let the rest of the chips fall where they may. As great as Brady is, he still appears to look very human when a defense can apply pressure and the Rams will certainly be gunning for him early and often.

The Rams are still without Robert Woods and lack what he brings to the table when off the ball. Odell Beckham Jr is not on the level of Woods with blocking but is a serious upgrade from DeSean Jackson.

Rams at Bucs Can Go Down to the Wire

At the end of the day, Brady will have some success picking apart the Rams defense simply because of who he is but it won’t be enough.

The Rams are underdogs in this game due to their inconsistency and having to play on the road on a shortened week certainly does not help. However, the recent loss to the 49ers might have been their turning point. They certainly played inspired football in the Wild Card matchup in a way that signaled renewed focus.

As written previously, when OBJ is unleased the Rams are extremely hard to contain as a team. This is especially true now with the return of running back Cam Akers. Tight end Tyler Higbee is in a zone as well, which is all the more important if the Bucs choose to take away Cooper Kupp.

The Rams have a lot of weapons on the upswing and a defense that knows how to smell blood and fear, along with more hunger overall and a coach who is now pulling new tricks from his bag.

The Buccaneers have a suspect offensive line and less of a receiving corps than their competition due to injuries and the release of Antonio Brown.

Go with the team that has both individual and team upside.

Rams at Buccaneers Divisional Round Prediction: Rams 30, Buccaneers 27

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