The Tampa Bay Buccaneers feel they have their best chance since the days under Jon Gruden to get to the Super Bowl. And that hope revolves around Tom Brady. The Los Angeles Rams were in the Super Bowl just two years ago and are only a half-game behind Seattle in the NFC West.
These teams will clash on Monday Night Football, starting at 8:15 PM ET at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
LOS ANGELES RAMS (6-3 SU, 5-4 ATS) at TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (7-3 SU, 5-4-1 ATS), 8:15 PM ET (Monday – ESPN)
BetOnline Monday Night Football Odds
Tampa Bay Bucs -4 (-115)
Los Angeles Rams +4 (-105)
Over 48 Points -110
Under 48 Points -110
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The Bucs had great receivers last season, and Jameis Winston joined a short list of NFL quarterbacks to throw for 5000 yards. But it was no secret that his 30 interceptions held this team back.
What Bruce Arians was looking for was someone who could exhibit some more control and avoid mistakes, and Brady has been better, certainly, in that department (only 7 INT’s).
He has been a model of efficiency doing what he does, which is to throw the short passes and let the receivers make something happen. Or so it seems. He is actually sixth in the league in Intended Air Yards Per Attempt at 8.7. However, he has averaged just 10.8 yards per completion, and he hasn’t been that low since the 2002 season (i.e,, very early in his career). The fact is, the way things have gone down, his receivers have averaged only 4.1 yards per catch after a completion.
How low is that. Well, let’s use some perspective. Only four starting quarterbacks in the league (who qualify in the category) are lower. His former understudy in New England, Jimmy Garoppolo, has dwarfed his figure in his six starts with 7.6. Jared Goff is at 6.1.
And Brady has completed just one of his 13 passes that have gone 20 or more yards down the field in the last three games. So there are actually a few things to work on.
And a few things a very good defense can exploit. You don’t want to go into a game with the Rams having limitations. On an overall basis, they have permitted fewer yards and points per drive than anyone. They have allowed just 4.8 yards per play. They have yielded just 5.2 net yards per pass attempt (factoring in sack yardage). They have forced three-and-outs 26.8% of the time.
Brady has not been pressured a whole lot (just 17.3% of dropbacks), but that figure may ramp up here. The Rams sacked Russell Wilson six times last week, and they may be able to bring the kind of heat that will fluster him, in the person of Aaron Donald, who has the ability to come right down the middle and take Brady out of the pocket. The QB knows what he is facing. “Aaron Donald is as good as there is to probably have ever played in the National Football League on the defensive line,” he says.
BetOnline patrons recall that Brady faced the Rams and their defense two years ago in the Super Bowl. But that defense was a lot different. For one thing, it was “coordinated” by Wade Phillips, who had Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib at the corners.
The resurgence of the Rams’ stop unit has been led by Brandon Staley, the dynamic first-year coordinator who just four years ago was the D-coordinator for Division III John Carroll University. He spent three years at the feet of defensive whiz Vic Fangio at Chicago and Denver. So you know he’s coming with some funky coverages to junk up an offense.
And he made a reach and gave a chance to Darious Williams, an undrafted corner out of UAB who actually stuck around waiting for the program to be re-established after it had been shut down. And Williams, in the words of his partner Jalen Ramsey, is on his way to being an All-Pro.
Brady and the Tampa Bay offense have been slowed down considerably by the likes of New Orleans and Chicago, and the Rams have the capability to do the same. His best hope might be to continue to get great work out of Rodney Jones, who has literally kept Leonard Fournette out of the starting lineup with his Pro Bowl-caliber season (730 yards, 5.1 ypc). Last week against Carolina, he had 192 yards, which included an electric 98-yard run.
Speaking of the run game, that could hold the key for the Rams as well. And we say that because the philosophy of coach Sean McVay is to utilize play action, to the extent that Goff has gone that route more than any other NFL quarterback. And hey, that’s a reason he has been pressured only 15.7% of the time.
There’s no Todd Gurley this season. But the Rams have gotten nice results out of Darrell Henderson (486 yards) and Malcolm Brown (347 yards). The offensive line is healthier than it was last year, and the result has been a #1 ranking in Adjusted Line Yards per attempt.
But they will meet some resistance here, as the Bucs are leading the NFL in yielding just 3.3 yards a carry. If you can get Goff “off his game,” you’ve got a real chance to make him look ordinary, and along those lines it should be mentioned that Tampa Bay has forced turnovers on 15.5% of its defensive drives.
The offenses are potent. But it would not surprise me to see a game where defenses really got in the way. In fact, this matchup evidence dictates that. So we’ll go UNDER the total on Monday night.
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