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Rams No Easy Task For Tampa Bay

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Jan/20/2022

The Los Angeles Rams head east to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday afternoon in the division round of the NFL playoffs, Quarterback Matthew Stafford’s makes his fifth career postseason start, though the first in the second weekend of the second season. On the other sideline is Tom Brady, a veteran of soon-to-be 47 playoff games. With the Rams and Buccaneers both coming off big wild-card wins, this should be a close game. 

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The Rams smoked the division-rival Arizona Cardinals, 34-11, Monday night, suffocating Kyler Murray with a relentless pass rush while picking apart a formidable Arizona defense. Stafford only needed to complete 13 throws for his 202 passing yards (and two touchdowns) as his running game (140 yards and a TD) and defense (two sacks, two interceptions and a pick-six) more than held their own. 

The Buccaneers had a similarly simple opening-round game, cruising past the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday afternoon, 31-15. Tampa Bay scored the game’s first 31 points. The Eagles, meanwhile, had no answers for Brady and Co. as Philly quarterback Jalen Hurts struggled in his playoff debut. Brady connected with Mike Evans nine times (117 yards, one touchdown), but also managed to share the wealth, hitting nine different receivers on the day. 

The NFL betting lines have the Buccaneers as three-point favorites at home. 

Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Defenses Cuts Drives Short 

It’s no secret that both the Rams and Buccaneers have explosive offenses, featuring Pro Bowl quarterbacks and tons of dynamic, skill-position weapons. However, the defenses are also loaded, especially the D-lines, which might be where this game is won (or lost).

Neither offense faced much resistance from their overmatched, first-round round opponents. That should change rather significantly here. The Rams’ running game has to deal with a top-five rushing defense and Stafford will likely be under more pressure than he was against the Cardinals. The Buccaneers’ front-seven is pretty tough, even if the secondary isn’t stout.

Likewise, the key for beating Brady is always to make him rush his throws. If he gets too much time in the pocket, he picks defenses apart. The good thing for the Rams is that with Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Leonard Floyd, they have multiple top-flight pass rushers who should be able to throw off Tampa’s rhythm.

With that said, look for a lot of drives to be cut down in (or before) field-goal range Sunday, if you’re making NFL predictions. The over 3½ field goals made is a smart wager for a variety of reasons, including the fact that in Los Angeles’ Matt Gay and Tampa Bay’s Ryan Succop, both teams have solid kicking games. It’s an enticing bet, especially with it at plus-money. 

Pick: Over 3½ Field Goals (+145) 

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Should Be A Back-And-Forth Affair 

The small spread in favor of the defending champs suggests Las Vegas and the betting public expect this game to be close, and won’t be decided by more than a possession’s worth of points. Of course, anything can happen in the NFL, but considering how good both teams are, that’s a pretty fair assessment.

So, betting that neither team will score three unanswered times (in other words, the Rams and Buccaneers scoring in an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better manner) provides great value at +200. It’s kind of a tough thing to predict since teams play very differently drive-by-drive. However, in closely-fought contests, it’s not crazy to expect teams to answer the other’s scores with ones of their own. 

Pick: Neither Team Will Score 3 Unanswered Times (+200) 

Take The Rams Straight-Up 

Betting against Brady usually is a recipe for disaster, but this Rams’ team is different. Los Angeles has the best defensive player in football and LA has won six of its last seven games. Tampa Bay is also playing good football, but the Buccaneers are a little banged-up at wide receiver and running back.

Also, Los Angeles won the previous meeting between these teams, 34-24, in Week 3. Stafford gashed a bottom-third passing defense for 343 yards and four touchdowns. If his line gives him sufficient time, there’s no reason to think he can’t have another big game. Take LA to take down the Bucs. 

Pick: Rams ML +125 

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