The Buccaneers face their first big road challenge of the season as they head west to play the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday afternoon.
Both the Rams and the Bucs bring 2-0 records into the game, and the Bucs will be looking for redemption after dropping a 27-24 decision to the Rams in Tampa last season.
Rams quarterback Matt Stafford is off to a decent start with his new team as he has the Rams off to a 2-0 start.
This will be Tom Brady’s first game in Los Angeles in his career. Hard to believe that in 20 plus years in the NFL, Brady has never played a game in Los Angeles.
The Bucs however, will have to overcome some injuries if they are going to win this game. Wide receiver Antonio Brown is on the Covid list, and the chances are pretty decent he will not play. Brown would need to have two negative tests 24 hours apart to be eligible to suit up.
However, with or without Antonio Brown, the Bucs wide receiver depth is the best in the NFL. Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson will see some extended playing time in Brown’s absence. The Bucs could also activate rookie wide receiver Jaelon Darden for additional depth at receiver.
Kick returner Jayden Mickens has been hampered all week with a hip injury. This season, Mickens has done an excellent job in the return game, averaging 29 yards per kick return.
Outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul has struggled with a shoulder injury this week. He flew to Denver to have additional tests done on the shoulder, and it is doubtful that he is on the field Sunday afternoon.
Rookie linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka should see plenty of playing time if Pierre-Paul cannot go. Tryon-Shoyinka had a great training camp and pre-season impressing teammates and coaches alike with his speed and quickness, and overall ability to get pressure on the quarterback.
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh however is expecting it to be business as usual, with Tryon-Shoyinka starting in place of Pierre-Paul:
Honestly, we shouldn’t lose anything. We expect Joe to step up, and it’s something that we’ve talked about all the time, that at any point in the season, we’re going to have a young guy and someone who is technically a backup to step up and be a starter and play in a role that is expected for them to have no drop-offs. At the end of the day, we’re definitely going to miss JPP if he’s not playing, but we expect for guys to step up and fill in that role.
The Rams are relatively healthy this week. Both Aaron Donald and Andrew Whitworth were back at practice after getting veteran days off.
This game is an important one for Rams quarterback Matt Stafford. The narrative was that Stafford had an inferior supporting cast in Detroit, with a poor defense, and that is why he was never able to have the success that everyone expected.
Now that the script has flipped, Stafford has a great supporting cast from the receivers to the offensive line. The defense is one of the best in the NFL. There should be no more excuses for Mr. Stafford. He will have to deliver in big games like this one against the Bucs.
Brady is off to the best start in his 20-year career, throwing nine touchdown passes in the first two games this season. Brady has been his best in the red zone, taking advantage of every opportunity to put points on the board. The Bucs are seven for ten inside the red zone the first two games this season.
The Bucs will put their ten-game winning streak on the line against a Rams defense that finished first in overall defense and points allowed in 2020. The Rams defense features two of the best defensive players in the NFL, in defensive linemen Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
This will be a high-scoring affair. The Bucs lead the NFL in scoring at 39 points game. The Rams are second in scoring at 30 points a game.
This game however is going to be a considerable challenge for the Bucs’ defensive backs. They have not played well at all as a group the first two games of the season. Mike Edwards has been their best player as he sealed the win against Atlanta with two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
In last year’s 27-24 loss at Raymond James Stadium, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp torched the Bucs secondary for 275 yards on 23 catches.
There are two keys for the Bucs to win this game.
Red Zone Defense
Whoever does a better job in the red zone is going to win this game. The Bucs defense through two games has let opposing offenses move the ball at will down the field and then tightened once inside the twenty. Consequently, this trend will have to continue Sunday for the Bucs to be successful.
Secondly, Keep Tom Brady’s Jersey Clean
The offensive line has struggled a bit the first two games on keeping Brady upright. The Bucs have allowed three sacks this season and are on pace to allow 33. Last season the Bucs offensive linemen allowed 21 sacks. They will need to do a better job in protecting Brady against the Rams defense.
The Bucs know they have not played their best game yet this season. This will be a statement game for the Bucs, on the road playing a good team in a challenging environment. The Bucs want to prove that they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders again this season. They can do that with a win Sunday in LA.
The Bucs will nonetheless make a statement and win this game 35-34 to get their first road win and improve to 3-0 on the season.