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It’s easy to blame Cardinals QB Kyler Murray for their embarrassing attempt at football last Monday but credit the Los Angeles Rams brutal defense for making that 34-11 Wildcard playoff game look easy, a high scoring game thanks in part to QB Matthew Stafford connecting with both Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. for touchdowns, but are they ready for the GOAT?
Tough to doubt Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady when it comes to the playoffs given the number of Big Games his teams have won (7), and even without playmaking WR Chris Godwin (Knee – ACL + MCL) on the field, his other favorite targets – WR Mike Evans and TE Rob Gronkowski – are effective before and after the catch as HC Bruce Arians game plans to win.
These two NFC rivals have faced each other 27 previous times (including 2 postseason games), with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning 9 of those games and the Los Angeles Rams winning 18 of the games.
Last week the Los Angeles Rams defense had one of their more impressive outings of the season, with two sacks and two interceptions against the Cardinals as they kept Arizona and their scrambling QB Kyler Murray to just eleven points in the game.
One look at the Rams’ 2021 defensive roster and it is not surprising how effective they have been, with DT Aaron Donald, LB Von Miller, and CB Jalen Ramsey all arguably worthy of future Hall of Fame consideration as they continue to shut down opposing teams.
The Rams defense ranks third in the league with 50 team sacks, and they are ranked fourth in interceptions with 19, so expect turnovers to play a big factor in a Los Angeles win if they expect to outscore the GOAT in just four quarters.
In just fourteen games this season, Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin caught 98 balls for 1,103 yards and 5 touchdowns, and then he injured his knee and went out for the season, leaving most of the receiving work to the other playmakers like Mike Evans and Antonio Brown.
But then in Week 17 Brown half disrobed and stormed out of the game against the Jets after HC Bruce Arians expected him to play despite a hurt ankle, so now QB Tom Brady has only Evans and Tyler Johnson to target along with backups Breshad Perriman and rookie Jaelon Darden.
Of course, when Brady gets desperate in the backfield, he can always count on his friend and fellow GOAT Rob Gronkowski to break open, the giant future Hall of Famer able to shake tackles and make safeties miss as he continues his post-retirement career.
A big help to QB Matthew Stafford has been the improving Rams rushing attack, an upward surge led in part by RB Sony Michel, a fourth-year pro in his first season with Los Angeles, a dual threat who made a splash for the Patriots who drafted him in the first round in 2018.
Since Week 13, Michel’s number of carries per game has increased substantially, and his production has improved as a result, this season with 208 carries for 845 yards and 4 TDs along with 21 receptions for 128 yards and a receiving touchdown, production valuable to the Rams.
The Rams are ranked 6th against the run so they are going to be tough for Michel to abuse, but if he can establish himself as a potent ground threat early on, Stafford’s play action fakes in the second half should be more effective overall.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are DE Ndamukong Suh’s fourth NFL team in the dozen years he has played in the league, the former first-round pick (2nd overall) and Nebraska alum is nicknamed ‘Chief’ and in his pro career he has led in every defense he has joined.
In twelve NFL years Suh has 70.5 sacks and 212 quarterback hits, his favorite pastime making opposing QB fall run scared and fall down, this season with 6 sacks and 13 QB hits along with a fumble recovery and 27 tackles with 7 of those for a loss.
For the Bucs to win, they will need to put pressure on Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, a sizable player who is not easily intimidated, but that is where Suh can change the momentum of the game with just a couple of QB takedowns in Los Angeles’s backfield.
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|Rams vs Buccaneers Information|
|What||Los Angeles Rams vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Where||Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida|
|When||Sunday, January 23, 2022; 3:00 PM ET|
|How to watch||NBC|
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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