The PewterReport.com staff shares its thoughts on the upcoming Bucs game and pick who we think we win, including a score prediction and a pick-to-click – a Tampa Bay player we think will play really well. Let us know you thoughts and add your prediction in the comment section.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (1-2) AT LOS ANGELES RAMS (3-0)
WHEN: SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 4:05 P.M. ET
WHERE: LOS ANGELES MEMORIAL COLISEUM (76,750)
PLAY-BY-PLAY: CHRIS MYERS
ANALYST: DARYL JOHNSTON
SIDELINE: LAURA OKMINBUCS
RADIO: 98ROCK, FLAGSHIP STATION (WXTB-97.9 FM)
PLAY-BY-PLAY: GENE DECKERHOFF
ANALYST: DAVE MOORE
SIDELINE: T.J. RIVES
PewterReport.com Publisher/Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are about to play one of the most important games of the season in Los Angeles. A loss to the Rams and the Bucs are 1-3, which would dig this team a big hole early in the season. If Tampa Bay were to fall to 1-4 it would an entire month’s worth of winning just to get back to .500, and with all of those games away from Raymond James Stadium that seems far-fetched. Perhaps as far-fetched as the 1-3 Bucs scoring a second straight road upset – this time against the 3-0 Rams.
But there’s something different about this Tampa Bay team. I have no idea why I think this may be like 2016 all over again with some close losses at home in games the Bucs should have won while going 4-4 at Raymond James Stadium, yet going 5-3 on the road. That outcome netted the Bucs a 9-7 record in Dirk Koetter’s first year as head coach, and the team just missed out on the playoffs. I could see that type of season happening if the Bucs were to pull off the upset at the L.A. Coliseum on Sunday. However, a loss and a 1-4 record might mean Tampa Bay is once again headed for a double-digit losing season.
I’m thinking the Bucs pull this upset off because the offense came time life last week against the New York Giants, scoring 31 points and racking up 499 yards. Jameis Winston threw for 380 yards with three touchdowns to Mike Evans, and the two were connecting downfield on deep balls all day. I was also impressed to see Ronald Jones II, who returns to the Coliseum where he played for USC, run for 80 yards and Tampa Bay’s ground game churn out 145 yards, especially in the second half.
That, and the pass rushing ability of Shaquil Barrett, whose eight sacks lead the league, shows me that the Bucs can play complementary football. The secondary needs to get fixed, specifically rookie free safety Mike Edwards, who had a couple of costly busts in coverage last week. The Rams offense is no joke, especially with Cooper Kupp in the slot matched up against nickel cornerback M.J. Stewart. That’s not a match-up that particularly favors the Bucs.
The big question is can they close out games and finish as a winner? They did in Week 2 on the road at Carolina, but stumbled in the final two minutes at home. Maybe this Bucs team is better on the road? Call me crazy, but I look for Matt Gay to bounce back and kick the game-winner this week in a close win for Tampa Bay.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Buccaneers 27, Rams 26
Reynolds’ Pick-To-Click: RB Ronald Jones II
Reynolds’ Record: 0-3
PewterReport.com Editor/Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
How real is the hangover from last week’s heartbreaking loss to the Giants? Players and coaches all said this week it was over on Monday. But how truthful were they? Sunday’s game against the Rams will tell us a lot. It will also tell us a lot about the Bucs defense. Are they the team we saw in the first two weeks? Or was last week’s performance against New York a truer representation of who this defense really is?
The Rams have a potent defense – and offense for that matter – and this Bucs team doesn’t on paper at least, match up very well. If a rookie like Daniel Jones and his cast of very average receivers can carve up the young Bucs secondary, what will veteran and reigning NFC champion quarterback Jared Goff be able to do?
Like all games, stopping the run will be the Bucs man focus on defense, and they will have their hands full trying to keep Todd Gurley in check. Of course the Bucs held Giants’ running back Saquon Barkley to just 10 yards last week, but couldn’t keep Jones out of the end zone, a place that he visited four times in the 32-31 win.
On offense, this team cannot call plays scared. Winston is going to make some risky throws and some mistakes here and there. That’s just who he is. You’re still going to have to trust you can go back to him to win the game for you. It didn’t feel like they did that last week after his interception. They’ll need to trust him in L.A. in order to keep up with a potent Rams offense, and throughout the rest of the season.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Rams 34, Buccaneers 17
Cook’s Pick-To-Click: LB Lavonte David
Cook’s Record: 0-3
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Trevor Sikkema
“Trevor, you’re not really going to pick the Buccaneers, a team that constantly shoots itself in the foot, to beat the team that just represented the NFC in the Super Bowl last year, are you?”
YOU BET I AM, and here’s why.
The Rams’ offensive formula is designed around threats and deception; things like RPOs and play action. During the first half of last season in 2018, 98 percent of their plays were run out of the same personnel with the same 11 players. This means they like to execute both run and pass out of the same looks to keep the defense guessing. But if you stop the run, or if you just don’t fall for their fakes, you force Rams quarterback Jared Goff to be a cerebral passer. I don’t think he is. That’s what Belichick did in the Super Bowl, and that’s what teams have been doing through the first three weeks.
The Bucs have shut down the run game of two of the top backs in the NFL over the last two weeks, so that gives me hope they can do the same to Todd Gurley this week. If they do that, don’t get sucked into play action, and get pressure on Goff, they can win this game. But the secondary has to be better than they were last week. If the secondary can just not leave guys wide open, they’ve got a shot. But at this point that might be a big ask.
On the opposite side of the ball, don’t let Aaron Donald ever get a 1-on-1, especially against Alex Cappa. This game is going to need a lot of O.J. Howard as an extra blocker to make sure the Bucs offensive line can designate two men to Donald all game long. Give Winston time and I think Mike Evans and Chris Godwin can get the better of the Rams defensive backs.
Sikkema’s Score Prediction: Buccaneers 27, Rams 25
Sikkema’s Pick-To-Click: The entire Bucs secondary
Sikkema’s Record: 0-3
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Taylor Jenkins
The Los Angeles Rams are one of the premier teams in the National Football League for a reason as the roster they’ve put together is solid from the top down.
Their offense begins with an above-average offensive line to protect quarterback Jared Goff and block for an elite running back in Todd Gurley. After that they’ve got a myriad of skill players in Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and the blazing fast Brandin Cooks.
On defense, led by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, it starts up front with a front seven that, despite losing Ndamukong Suh to the Bucs in the off-season, is still stacked with talent like Michael Brockers, Dante Fowler Jr. and one of the best defensive linemen to ever play the game, Aaron Donald. Add in future Hall of Famer Clay Matthews at linebacker and it’s an extremely dangerous unit. When you move to the secondary you’ll find two former All-Pro cornerbacks, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, with two-time All-Pro Eric Weddle at safety.
It’s no secret why they represented the NFC in the Super Bowl last year and it remains no surprise why they’re among the favorites to be back there again when February rolls around.
For the Bucs to pull out a victory on Sunday they will have to play clean, mistake-free football that starts with establishing the run and being aggressive. Ronald Jones hasn’t seen a better time to go out and have one of, if not, the best days of his young career in order to set up the play-action pass and open up the deep ball for Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
On defense the Bucs have proven they have the talent up front to slow down premeier running backs consistently, but do they have the speed and coverage skills in their secondary to shut down the Rams’ receivers and Sean McVay’s offense? That I’m not so sure about.
The Bucs do have a chance, any given Sunday as they say, but I just can’t see a way that Tampa Bay puts everything together and plays strong enough to upset the defending NFC Champs
Jenkins’ Score Prediction: Rams 31, Buccaneers 20
Jenkins’ Pick-To-Click: RB Ronald Jones II
Jenkins’ Record: 0-3
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Matt Matera
I have a feeling that the Bucs are going to be the kind of team that you just can’t predict week in and week out.
They were favored to win Week 1 and they lost. They were supposed to lose Week 2 and they won, and last week, they were expected to beat a winless Giants team last Sunday at home, and we all know how that ended. Will that trend continue when they are underdogs on the road against the defending NFC champions? I think so.
The Bucs will go about doing this by stopping the run game on defense. They’ve done a good job of stopping some of the best running backs in the game early in the season. They held Christian McCaffrey 37-rushing yards in week two and Saquon Barkley to 10-yards on eight carries before leaving the game with an ankle injury.
They face another top-tier back this week against Todd Gurley, but if the trend continues they will be able to shut him down, forcing the Rams to be one-dimensional. Los Angeles will have some matchup advantages with Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods having the speed over the likes of Sean Murphy-Bunting and M.J. Stewart, but should the Bucs have the Rams in third-and-long situations, Todd Bowles can scheme around that.
The Rams offense is good, but they haven’t been at their best yet this season, giving the Bucs a chance to exploit some of Jared Goff’s weaknesses.
It’s all going to come down to stopping Aaron Donald for the Bucs’ offense. It’s got to be number one on their list no matter what. He needs to be double teamed all day, because you know the Rams will line him up against Alex Cappa instead of Ali Marpet.
If they can hold him up, I see the Bucs offense continuing to build upon their outburst from last week. With a little more play action involved, the Bucs can rely on what’s been a good ground game with Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber to keep the Rams off the field.
And outside of Aqib Talib, the Rams secondary has defensive backs that the Bucs’ receivers can get separation from. This week, the Bucs show that if they get punched in the mouth, they will punch right back even harder and pull off the upset.
Matera’s Score: Buccaneers 31, Rams 28
Matera’s Pick-To-Click: DT Vita Vea
Matera’s Record: 0-3