Buccaneers game day is approaching, and it’s time for the PewterReport.com staff to offer up its weekly game predictions. Let us know what you think in the article comments section and add your prediction, too.
WHEN: Monday, November 2, 2020 KICKOFF: 8:15 p.m. ET WHERE: Raymond James Stadium TV: ESPN PLAY-BY-PLAY: Steve Levy ANALYSTS: Brian Griese & Louis Riddick SIDELINE: Lisa Salters RADIO: 98 ROCK 97.9 FM PLAY-BY-PLAY: Gene Deckerhoff ANALYST: Dave Moore SIDLINE: T.J. Rives Spanish Radio: 96.1 FM PLAY-BY-PLAY: Carlos Bohorquez ANALYST: Martin Gramatica
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Scott Reynolds: Bucs Could Get Out-Coached In This One
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Sean McVay has done something that Bruce Arians hasn’t, which is to take a team to the Super Bowl as a head coach. Arians has a few Super Bowl rings from his days in Pittsburgh as a wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator, but couldn’t get some talented Arizona teams to the Promised Land. New defensive coordinator Brandon Staley has worked wonders with the talent he inherited and has the defensive line and the secondary playing at a high level. While All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald is the star, edge rusher Leonard Floyd is coming off his best game with three sacks, 11 tackles and a fumble recovery against Seattle. Attacking the middle of L.A.’s defense and targeting the Rams’ pedestrian linebackers with wide receiver Chris Godwin and tight end Rob Gronkowski would be wise for Tom Brady and play-caller Byron Leftwich.
Rams WRs Josh Reynolds and Cooper Kupp and TE Gerald Everett – Photo by: USA Today
McVay’s high-powered offense is putting up a ton of yards this year, but is struggling in the red zone, averaging just 24 points per game, which is middle of the pack this year. The Rams will use three running backs Darrell Henderson, Jr., Malcolm Brown and Cam Akers to give the Bucs defense different looks. Getting to Jared Goff and forcing turnovers is the best way to beat the Rams. Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles needs to bring pressure from the start and not allow Goff to get into a groove. Too often this season Bowles has waited to blitz and play man coverage.
Expect a lot of screen passes to the wide receivers and tight ends with the Rams offensive line getting out on the flanks and blocking down field along with the best group of blocking receivers in the league in Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds and Cooper Kupp, who will present problems for Sean Murphy-Bunting in the slot. I highlighted this match-up in my 4 Match-ups To Watch in this week’s SR’s Fab 5. Check that out in addition to my Rewind-Fast Forward section of the SR’s Fab 5 for more Bucs vs. Rams previews.
We’ve talked about the Buccaneers’ poor showings this season in the national spotlight so far this season, going 1-2 on the prime time stage with the last one being a disaster in a 38-3 loss to the Saints two weeks ago. If I am tired of talking about it, and you are tired of reading about it, imagine how the players feel hearing about it all week. I won’t guarantee a Bucs win, but I think we see a much better performance from the players and the staff this week as they take the field for the iconic Monday Night Football.
Bucs QB Tom Brady and the O-line – Photo by: USA Today
The key to winning this game is the thing that let them down in their three losses – pass protection. If Tom Brady has time to throw he has proven for 20 years there aren’t many teams he can’t beat. The Buccaneers must give Brady time to scan the field and go through his progressions. All the talk is about how great the Rams defense is, and while it does present problems for opposing teams, let’s talk about the talent on the offensive side of the ball for Tampa Bay.
Defensively the Bucs will have to play at their Green Bay level and not their New York Giants level. They need to eliminate the Rams desire to run early, get out to lead and let force the Rams into a one-dimensional team where Jared Goff drops back to pass 40 or more times. If Tampa Bay can do that they can win and get the prime time money off their back. Tampa Bay needs to approach this as a playoff game and this game will give is a much better vision of how far they can go if they reach the postseason.
If you ask me which roster is more talented, I’d choose the Bucs in a heartbeat. But the Rams collection of talent is no joke either, and they also happen to be one of the most well-coached teams in the NFL, with terrific attention to detail. That’ll be tough to overcome for a Bucs team that has been up-and-down this season, and will likely be without Ali Marpet against the Aaron Donald-led Rams defense.
Bucs DC Todd Bowles – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
If the Bucs are going to win this game, their defense will have to return to the form in which they began the season, destroying opposing quarterbacks with constant pressure and getting far better play from their young secondary. I’ll be surprised if the Bucs offense piles up yards and points against probably the best defense in the NFL, especially given how well Los Angeles is built to match-up against what the Bucs do best (inside run game and vertical passing). If Bruce Arians doesn’t adjust some of his typical strategic tendencies, the Bucs defense will need to step up against a Rams offense that has moved the ball well this season, but ranks only 18th in scoring.
It’s not that the Bucs can’t win this game, but their most likely path to victory – pressuring Jared Goff into sacks and turnovers – won’t be easy against a Rams offense designed to protect their starting quarterback’s biggest flaws. If Tampa Bay wins, Todd Bowles will probably deserve the game ball, I just haven’t seen enough from the Bucs defense in recent weeks to make that bet.
The prime time games have not been so great for the Bucs this season as they’ve struggled each time they were playing in front of a national audience. Much like how they wanted to get a bad taste out of their mouth last week, it’s a similar ideology on Monday night as the Bucs want to show they can come up big on this kind of stage. They come out with a chip on their shoulder.
Even after scoring 46 points last week, the Bucs’ offense didn’t look as sharp as they can be. They face one of their biggest tests this time around, and should be happy they got three of the best receivers in football. Rams corner Jalen Ramsey can only guard one receiver on each play, so if he’s on Mike Evans, it’ll give Antonio Brown or Chris Godwin some great opportunities. One of them is going to have a big game.
Bucs WR Antonio Brown – Photo by: USA Today
Tampa Bay’s defense has fallen into a pattern where they start off slow in the first half, but then clamp things down in the second. Last week’s game in Carolina is a great example, where they allowed just six points after halftime. They need to play a full four quarters, and hopefully stay away from the soft zone coverage. If the Bucs get pressure home, it’ll be a long day for the Rams offense, and the Bucs can gain an important conference win in the NFC to help their position on the playoff standings.
Taylor Jenkins: Bucs Finally Put It Together In Prime Time
As the Bucs behind the Saints in the division, with New Orleans also holding the tie breaker following two decisive head-to-head wins, every game from here on out becomes a playoff game for Tampa Bay.
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
After a shootout last season in Los Angeles that resulted in a 55-40 victory for the Bucs, I see the game going much different this year. I don’t exactly think it will be a 13-10 slugfest, but the end result will come down to which team can get a crucial turnover and stifle the opposing offense enough to sway momentum in their favor. Under new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, the Rams have forced 13 total turnovers and are allowing just 18.7 points per game this year, a mark good for second-best in the league. On the other side of the ball, the Rams have a diverse backfield in Malcolm Brown, Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson that are all capable of running and catching the ball out of the backfield. Head coach Sean McVay’s offense also utilizes play action frequently, allowing quarterback Jared Goff manipulate defenders and find one of his talented skill players in Robert Woods or Cooper Kupp or heavily-utilized tight ends in Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. The Rams’ scoring offense sits near the middle of the league at 24 points per game.
The Bucs have one of the most talented rosters in the league and it’s clear just how good they can be when they are at their best. Despite struggling in each of their prime time match-ups so far this season, I think they finally break through and find a way to put it all together on Monday night.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org