The Bucs defense needs to contain Rams WR Tavon Austin – Photo by: Getty Images
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) vs. Los Angeles Rams (1-1)
Sunday, September 25, 2016, 4:05 P.M. ET
Raymond James Stadium (65,618)
Network Television: FOX
Play-By-Play: Dick Stockton Analysts: Chris Spielman Sideline: Kristina Pink
Bucs Radio: US 103.5, Flagship Station (103.5 FM, 620 AM & 95.3 FM)
Play-By-Play: Gene Deckerhoff Analyst: Dave Moore Sideline: T.J. Rives
Last Game: Tampa Bay Lost at Arizona, 40-7; Los Angeles Won vs. Seattle, 9-3
Another week, another chance for the Bucs to prove who they are.
Against the Rams this Sunday, Tampa Bay will aim for resilience after a humbling defeat in Arizona a week ago. The Bucs aggressive approach in Week 2 – which served them well in Week 1 vs. the Falcons – backfired against a superior Cardinals team, as Arizona turned Tampa Bay’s attempt for quick points before half into 14 points of its own.
Now it’s time to respond – and do so without Doug Martin (hamstring), Luke Stocker (ankle), Robert Ayers (ankle) and Austin Seferian-Jenkins who was cut on Friday. Tampa Bay will rely on Charles Sims, who’s rushed for 33 yards on 13 attempts in two games, and Jacquizz Rodgers, who’s familiar with Dirk Koetter’s offense from his time in Atlanta, to carry the load in the backfield.
The Rams, who steamrolled Tampa Bay on “Thursday Night Football” last season, come in with renewed momentum following a 9-3 defensive win against Seattle – just one week after looking hapless in a 28-0 loss to the 49ers.
Case Keenum, who’s 2-0 against the Bucs, will be under center for Los Angeles. The journeyman QB has struggled in the first two weeks – 35 of 65 passing for 269 yards with no TDs and two INTs – and those struggles have largely been the reason for star running back Todd Gurley’s limitations – just 98 rushing yards (2.7 avg.) – as defenses’ have sold out to stop the former Georgia Bulldog.
But this is not a team to overlook, as Bucs DT Gerald McCoy said earlier in the week. Rams three-technique Aaron Donald, the leader of an underrated defense, is among the best in the NFL while Gurley is bound to break away one of these weeks. Tampa Bay’s job starts with containing LA’s elite, and not beating themselves with turnovers.
A win on Sunday for the Bucs – and it almost feels like a must-win in order to keep pace – would redeem last week, get revenge on the Rams and set them up nicely heading into a tough road ahead. How do the Pewter Reporters see the home opener playing out?
PewterReport.com Publisher & Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
I think the score is much closer now that tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been cut following his arrest early on Friday. Without ASJ and running back Doug Martin, Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter is without two big weapons on offense and is suddenly thin at the tight end position due to Luke Stocker’s ankle sprain. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston is going to have to rise to the occasion and shoulder the load on offense. It’s important for Koetter to call for short passes to get Winston in rhythm early and use the pass to set up the running game that will feature Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers. Don’t be surprised if Rodgers has more rushing yards, while Sims has more receiving yards and is used on several screen passes. Expect a big game from wide receiver Mike Evans.
On defense, the Bucs must avoid matching speedy wide receiver Tavon Austin up with safety Chris Conte in space as that heavily favors the Rams. Tampa Bay got burned last week right before the half when John Brown got behind Conte for a big touchdown. Los Angeles defensive tackle Aaron Donald doesn’t have a sack yet and Todd Gurley doesn’t have 100 yards rushing yet. Both will come to Tampa Bay hungry for a breakout game, but it will be Donald who has success. As long as the Bucs can figure out what to do at right defensive end with Robert Ayers possibly out due to an ankle sprain, Gurley can be contained. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith will need to use someone other than Noah Spence or Howard Jones – both of whom are under 250 pounds – against Rams left tackle Greg Robinson, who is 6-foot-5, 335 pounds.
The undermanned Bucs do just enough on offense and defense and special teams to squeak by the Rams to move to 2-1 on the season.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Bucs win 20-17
Reynolds’ Pick To Click: LB Lavonte David
PewterReport.com Editor in Chief & Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
This game scares me. It concerns me. I have a bad feeling about it. The Bucs should win. This isn’t a Rams team with a lot of firepower offensively and NFL Rookie of the Year Todd Gurley hasn’t done much so far in two games. Case Keenum isn’t a quarterback that you are frightened of, yet he has managed to beat the Bucs two times. Two times!
Of course Rams fans are looking at the Bucs right now and thinking virtually the same thing. No Doug Martin, no Luke Stocker, no Robert Ayers, and no Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Where is the Bucs offensive firepower? But I will still take the Bucs offense over the Ram based on the quarterback alone. If Jameis Winston plays smart, doesn’t try and get it all in one play, the Bucs should be able to move the ball a little better than Los Angeles.
However, the biggest discrepancy between the two teams comes on the other side of the ball, and in my opinion, the Rams have a clear advantage. Their front four is one of the best in the league and are very physical. Can the Bucs find a few creases to run? Will the offensive line be able to hold up long enough for Winston to find some open receivers?
This game scares me but I am thinking the Bucs muster up just enough offense, and come up with just enough defensive plays to eek out an ugly, but much-needed win.
Cook;s Score Prediction: Bucs win 20-19
Cook’s Pick To Click: WR Vincent Jackson
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Eric Horchy
Judging by the first two weeks of the season, it’s hard to tell what to expect from the Rams. And that’s exactly what Los Angeles and its fan base has to be thinking about the Bucs, too. Both teams come into Sunday’s game sporting 1-1 records that include a one-possession win and an ugly, blowout defeat.
Recent head-to-head history doesn’t bode well for Tampa Bay. This will be the fifth straight year the non-divisional foes meet in the regular season and the Rams won all four previous matchups. That includes last year’s 31-23 loss that was not as close as the score makes it appear and both teams will be fielding similar rosters Sunday.
It can’t get much worse than last week for the Bucs in the turnover department, but this feels like a game that will be decided by a small handful of moments. That means losing the turnover battle once again, even if just by one or two, could be devastating. A good way to avoid quarterback Jameis Winston feeling the need to make too much happen will be running backs Charles Sims III and Jacquizz Rodgers proving to the Rams that they need to be accounted for in Doug Martin’s absence. Tampa Bay rushed for 146 yards last year in St. Louis, but Sims and Rodgers will also be going up against a Rams defense that features a trio of players that were unable to play then in defensive end Robert Quinn, linebacker Alec Ogletree and strong safety T.J. McDonald.
Tampa Bay didn’t get much help last week defensively with all the turnovers and now the Bucs get to face a Case Keenum-led offense that has yet to score a touchdown. As nonthreatening as that sounds, it’s the same Case Keenum that posted a 158.0 passer rating in last season’s game despite running back Todd Gurley being bottled up for 48 yards on 21 carries. Tampa Bay has played well against the run through two games but Gurley may set the tone early en route to his first 100-plus yard game of the season.
Horchy’s Score Prediction: Rams win 23-17
Horchy’s Pick To Click: CB Vernon Hargreaves III
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Zach Shapiro
Last week I defended the 33-point difference, writing it off as an aggressive team staying true to form against an undeniably better, more experienced team. If the Bucs were trying to just keep it close, they would’ve taken their foot off the gas in the second quarter, added a field goal and gone into half at 10-3 – only to lose by a couple scores in the end. But they weren’t going to do that. A developing team, Tampa Bay is trying to establish an identity and that meant sticking to the plan. It resulted in a bad loss last week.
This Sunday I expect it to result in a win. My prediction is that Tampa Bay will stay aggressive through the air – especially without Doug Martin against a stout run-defense that allowed 66 yards on the ground last week to Seattle – and try to take advantage of blitzes and man coverage once again. On defense, I expect tackling to improve and the front seven to contain Gurley.
Jameis Winston responds with an interception-free game and Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson each score a touchdown. Tampa Bay rebounds and takes another step forward.
Shapiro’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 27-13
Shapiro’s Pick To Click: WR Mike Evans
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
Rams win 17 – 10. Bucs get stopped by Ram DL.
The Rams are one of those mercurial teams. Don’t know which team will show up. Time for a gut check in Tampa Bay for sure.
Time for some turnovers to come in bunches. Bucs win that battle, and win the game. I think the loss of ASJ is addition by subtraction. Now Brate needs to step up. He’s the receiving T.E. period. Jameis now hopefully develops a better chemistry having only one TE he needs to look to. The ASJ distraction is gone.
Very close game: Bucs win 19-17.
Contain Gurley and you win. Dont and you lose. I dont expect Austin to be a factor outside of returns. Lovie Smith forgot to cover him altogether when he was split out but Mike Smith isnt going to.
Bucs should win this game.
Rams- 17-10, the turnover machine continues.
Don’t have good feeling about this one. No Martin and Ayers is killing both sides of ball. ASJ distraction and loss in passing threat. Winston is the man going forward, but he’s got lot to learn still and just can’t get off to good starts. This pains me to say but…..
24-16 Rams. Hope I’m wrong and we can play much better than last week. Just so many variables and new players that would have to step up and play great to win. This game will likely decide if we have any chance playoffs. Thinking 1-4 if we lose this at home and after Broncos and Panthers. After that with Martin and Ayers back schedule gets little better and could get on a run I suppose.
The Bucs, out of necessity, have implemented a UDFA strategy! More than any other NFL team, the Bucs are now dependent on UDFAs to step up and take meaningful snaps.
DE DaVonte Lambert replaces Jacquiese Smith, WR Freddie Martino replaces Cecil Shorts, LB Josh Keyes replaces Devante Bond, and now TE Alan Cross replaces Austin Seferian-Jenkins – all UDFAs. In addition, Bucs have ruled out 3 other injured players for Sunday versus the Rams: RB Doug Martin, DE Robert Ayers, and TE Luke Stocker – not good!
We are at this point early in the season by virtue of injuries and Jason Lichts’ strategy of deploying low ranked Free Agents and building thru the draft. So far the strategy is not working. There is no meaningful depth behind most starters if one of them should go down. A quick search of the defense depth chart shows there is no one backing up Kwon Alexander at MLB.
Last year the Bucs employed rookies as starters and fared well even though a 6-10 record. This year the schedule is much tougher and injuries are showing up early. We will need to take the temperature of the Bucs at the Bye week to forecast how we may end the season.
My honest and unbiased opinion is that we’re headed for rough water. And will remain there until we get starters to return to form, players come off of PUP, and one allowable player returns from IR to save our season!
May the football gods be with us! Go Bucs!
Yea Mac it ain’t looking good brother. I liked our starting line up, but I knew we were razor thin at lot positions before season started. Oh well we are buillding something and getting closer I think. I trust Licht,Koetter,Winston. Still need some talent too along with depth in several areas WR,TE,safety,DE.
With all of the injuries each week is Next Man Down.
The Pats won three in row with three different Q.B.’s, one of them a rookie, and they shut out a good team. Get off the injury excuse, every team is dealing with them. Better hope the back ups produce, they seem to for the good teams. The Pats draft, and develop, Pitt all the good teams. We’re facing Case Keenum today, think the Rams are kicking themselves for not drafting right? No one is feeling sorry for anybody, all teams have flaws in the NFL, and injuries have to be over come by every team. Time to see if the meathead has an eye for talent. The Crosses, Lamberts need to step up. Anybody doubt they would if they were suiting up for N.E.? No excuses, just do your job, and beat a very beatable Rams team.
We are toast this week…
The Rams, their coach and journeyman QB all have the Bucs number- and unless the stat gods hit the snooze this weekend, they will all improve on their records again this squad…
ASJ is the most recent reminder that we still can’t draft decent players- often reaching for stars and ending with a handful of sh*t…
VJ is old, shies away from contact and is slow AF…
Butter soft Evans is looking as overrated as the QB he once caught for-yet another reach…
Sims can’t carry Martins jock let alone carry the load of be the lead dog…
Winston is too eager to show he can win that he is responsible for turn over after turn over- like he’s Pepperidge Farms…
Our offense this year was supposed to be our strength – key injuries and lack of production are quickly exposing that it was smoke and mirrors…
I liken being a Bucs fan to being a partner in an abusive relationship- every off season they try to say they have changed, that they have worked on their problems… They have one good showing and we get all happy and buy into the lie… Then they start to show their true colors and basically don’t show up- then you get a call from the police that they have been arrested again for DUI ( or shooting at someone, etc…). Now I’m worried they are gonna get caught stealing crab legs again!
I keep hoping this team will prove me wrong,as denial is strong with Bucs fans- I just don’t see it happening this week.
And depending on how bad it goes- it will either continue the downward spiral or make us believe the “this time baby, I’ve really changed.”
I’m not buyin it any more- I want a restraining order…
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