1st Stance: Offense
In week 9, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the fanatics in a panic state after losing to the New Orleans Saints 38 – 3. Nothing went Tampa’s way, but the offense was particularly inept. Tom Brady (aka the GOAT) barely eclipsed 200 passing yards, had 3 INTs and no TDs. They ran the ball 5 times for 8 yards. That is not a typo. Maybe it was just one of those games that happen sometimes; week 10 against the Carolina Panthers, all ills were fixed. Tommy threw for 341 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs, Ronald Jones II looked like a beast with 192 yards with 98 of those on one carry for a TD. Which offense will show up Monday?
The Rams seem to be a ‘damned’ if you do, ‘you suck’ if you don’t team this year. The sports media platforms kill them when they lose. It is more the result of the opponent playing poorly when they win as was lately demonstrated in this start-up YouTube channel from by @JKBogenDTSN (and his points are 100% valid). It seems that the question remains – are the Rams any good?
Started my solo youtube channel. Check it out friends. https://t.co/FeEqXq8QqV
— JAKE OLIVER ELLENBOGEN (@JKBogenDTSN) November 17, 2020
Billed as the game of the week, this game features the two highest graded teams (per PFF) in the game squaring off. Incredibly, this game will finally make history with the long-overdue first all-Black officiating crew ever on a Monday night.
NFL to use all-Black officiating crew for first time ever on Monday night for Rams-Bucs game https://t.co/NFxMvMMVeS
— Rams Wire (@TheRamsWire) November 17, 2020
Tampa brings the weapons on offense, but Tom Brady has struggled in prime time this year; his strict schedule has him in bed by 8:30 PM when possible and it has looked like he has been asleep in primetime – coach Bruce Arians is changing things up a little in an effort to acclimate Tom to a later schedule:
Bc Bucs have struggled in prime time this year, Arians has talked about changing up schedule to get start those games better. Team will prax at night Thurs/Fri to adjust. #GoBucs
— Sara Walsh (@Sara_Walsh) November 16, 2020
Expect a heavy dose of the running back by committee, nicknamed Run DMC. The ground attack had 3 TDs on the Sunday and look to control the ball on Monday.
Apologies to @AlexisKraft, fans chose RunDMC over Ceberus in my very scientific Twitter poll.
This will be in-part because the run game has been outstanding, partly because the Rams are going to want to limit the exposure of having to move from Andrew “Father-Time” Whitworth to Joe Noteboom on the OL as Whit heads to the IR: (For an outstanding read on Andrew Whitworth and what he means to the Rams and the NFL, click here)
Andrew Whitworth out 6-8 weeks but knee injury isn't season-endinghttps://t.co/uewFozqsSr
— Rams Wire (@TheRamsWire) November 18, 2020
Coach Sean McVay has confidence in Noteboom and this was the plan in case Whit pulled the retirement card, but phasing in the protection and getting blocking confidence for the position screams of a run attack, even against a tough Bucs run defense:
Sean McVay expresses optimism in Joe Noteboom as Whitworth's replacement https://t.co/rcM2aLcCJO
— Rams Wire (@TheRamsWire) November 17, 2020
Both teams have weapons but also have issues that can be exploited. I should have learned by now to never bet against Tom Brady – the edge on offense goes to Tampa. A steady dose of Rams defense pressure will prove to be a challenge; yards and points will be tough to come by for the Buccaneers.
2nd Stance: Defense
Tampa’s defense is a mixed-bag. They are good in some areas, average in others, and have had some bad games this season. Tampa held opponents to 10 points or less in 30% of their games. They have 32 sacks, which is second in the league. Tampa has 17 forced TOs, tied for first in the league; 12 of those are INTs (1st in the NFL). They have also given up 30+ points in 30% of their games with a 1-2 record in that span. Last week they were “sleep-walking” in the first half but woke up to hold the Carolina Panther to only 35 yards in the second half. Over the last four games, the defense is giving up a 70% completion rate to opposing QBs and Jared Goff may frustrate fans at times, but he is accurate when he has protection. They cannot afford to be off in the first half against the Rams; under Sean McVay, the Rams are 31-0 when leading at halftime.
Where to start with the Rams defense? The Rams have allowed only 1 TD in their 6 wins, that happened in week 1. They have an NFL best 9 TD passes (8 of those allowed in the three losses). They are giving up only an average of 4 points per game in the second half. Last week against Russell Wilson (led the league in QBR and TDs before the week 10 matchup), the Rams defense had 6 sacks, 12 QB hits, 2 INTs and a fumble recovery. Impressive, for sure – but that was without Aaron Donald having a sack or a tackle all game! That’s not to say he wasn’t effective; the game plan was to keep Aaron Donald from beating them. Seattle got what they asked for – the Rams other pieces made them pay. The defense is hitting on all cylinders right now: Darious Williams had as many catches (INTs) as stud and standout WR DK Metcalf and NFC Defensive Player of the Week Leonard Floyd is now a legitimate pass rusher with 7 sacks on the year, matching his career high after only 9 games (3 in week 10). Oh, they also still have Jalen Ramsey:
"The best player in the NFL yesterday was Jalen Ramsey… [He] pitched a shutout. He was brilliant."
— ESPN Radio (@ESPNRadio) November 16, 2020
Why are people still trying to …
1. Say the #Rams overpaid Ramsey
2. Trying to make excuses why Ramsey isn’t the best corner
3. Acting like he hasn’t been the best corner for the last few years now…
— JAKE OLIVER ELLENBOGEN (@JKBogenDTSN) November 16, 2020
The tandem of Williams and Ramsey as the best CB duo in the league is absolutely arguable:
Darious Williams through Wk 10:
🔒 81.9 PFF Grade (3rd)
🔒 41.4 Passer Rating Allowed (1st)pic.twitter.com/RE6VPshFbM
— PFF (@PFF) November 18, 2020
The Buccaneers have demonstrated that they can have a good defense, but consistency is key in the NFL. The Rams are not only consistently great, they are still improving week over week. They know that QB pressure is the best way to get to Tom Brady. The key will be to hold Tampa to 20 points or less. The Rams have allowed more than 20 only three time this season and those games are their only 3 losses. I think the Rams are going to put Brady to bed on time this week; he’ll definitely be on his back a lot, but restful sleep is not in the cards as he’ll be having nightmares all night long and the deep ball will not be there, much to the dismay of Arians and his ‘stretch the field’ offense.
3rd Stance: Special Teams
The narrative for the Rams has not changed for the better and remains to be seen if it can improve as the Rams are on their 3rd kicker of the season, either Matt Gay or Austin MacGinnis. MacGinnis is the all-time leading scorer for the University of Kentucky and will be looking to get his first NFL start – no pressure for a Monday night. Gay, who looks to practice for the first time with the Rams on Saturday, was signed from the Colts practice squad. Last year, Gay killed the Rams with 7 XPs and 2 FGs but ended the season with 3 critical misses. Which kicker will trot out of the locker room on Monday night? The only bright spot for the Rams is the punter, Johnny Hekker. Hekker leads the league in punts downed inside the 20 (21 total). The punt coverage is dead last in the league, giving up an average of 19 yards per return.
Tampa is tied for 3rd in the league with 20 FGs this season and kicker Ryan Succop is a former Monday Night NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, responsible for 13 of Tampa’s 25 points in a 2 point win over the New York Giants in week 8, their only prime time win of the season.
Until the Rams solve for the pieces around Hekker, every team in the league is going to have the special team’s edge.
4th Stance: Intangibles
- Coaching – Sean McVay versus Bruce Arians. McVay has an edge in record at 2-1 head-to-head, but Arians won the last meeting last season 55 – 40. Rams fans will recall Arians calling them “a team that’s always 8-and-8”, but that was before McVay. Arians is not known for mixing words and recently called McVay “one in a million”. Edge slightly goes to McVay, but this game could change all of that.
- Trend/Mojo – Both teams are on the up side of the roller coaster with bounce back wins in week 10. Both will be looking to keep the mojo in their favor and gain some much needed momentum for the end-of-season run.
- Post of the week from Jourdan Rodrigue – If you are not following Jourdan, you are missing out, she is the BEST. If you are not subscribing to The Athletic, you are REALLY missing out as she goes deep into Rams coverage that you should not miss.
Ramsey lined up across from Metcalf 30 of his 42 routes and allowed 0 catches on 2 targets per Next Gen Stats, just to follow up on this delightfully subtle note from Ramsey in the postgame presser. https://t.co/uOV5Sh6nLq
— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) November 17, 2020
Jourdan pointing out the humility of Jalen is classic.
- Odd and ends:
- Coach Arians is concerned with this game, notes that his team is exhausted at this point in the season. “I gave the guys off until Thursday; we’re a really tired team,” Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians told Bucs Total Access earlier this week, via JoeBucsFan.com. “We haven’t had a bye yet. So this is kind of a little bit of a mini-bye for us. And then Friday and Saturday night, we’ll practice at night, the same time as the game. Do a couple of different things on Monday morning to try and shake it up and see if we can start the game better.”
- It is time to rename the NFC West to the NFC Best, or possibly the NFC Division of Death:
The NFC West has 3 teams with winning records.
The entire rest of the NFC also has 3 teams with winning records now.
We already knew it, but the Rams really are in the Division of Death. The last-place Niners are clearly the 7th-best team in this conference rn.
— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) November 17, 2020
- There are some great games this weekend, especially in the prime-time slots. NFL Tiers through week 10:
NFL Tiers through week 10
Some great matchups for Week 11:
–> SEA – ARI (TNF)
–> GB – IND
–> TEN – BAL
–> TB – LA (MNF) pic.twitter.com/WoS694y5Fj
— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) November 17, 2020
- Shout outs: @Taylor_Smith859 – got you a reference to your Wildcats and to my brother Vince (huge off the grid Rams fan) – relax, the Rams got this one.
- Key Injuries:
- Tampa Bay
- Questionable for this week – limited practice on Thursday: Mike Edwards (SAF, quadriceps), Jason Pierre-Paul (OLB, knee)
- Questionable for this week – full practice on Thursday: Ali Marpet (OG, concussion)
- Injured Reserve – expected return this week: Jack Cichy (LB, hamstring)
- Physically Unable to Perform – expected return this week: Justin Evans (SS, foot)
- Injured Reserve COVID-19: Jaydon Mickens (WR, undisclosed)
- Injured Reserve: Vita Vae (NT, ankle), O.J. Howard (TE, achilles), John Franklin (WR, knee – ACL), T.J. Logan (RB, knee)
- Los Angeles
- Questionable for this week – limited practice on Thursday: Brian Allen (C, knee)
- Injured Reserve – expected return this week: Obo Okoronkwo (LB, elbow)
- Injured Reserve – expected return week 14: Taylor Rapp (SAF, knee), Andrew Whitworth (OT, knee – MCL), Kai Forbath (K, ankle)
- Injured Reserve: Terrell Burgess (SAF, ankle), Justin Lawler (LB, foot), Travin Howard (LB, knee – meniscus)
- Tampa Bay
- Weather at Raymond James Stadium is expected to be perfect football weather; mostly clear and 68 degrees (feels like 66) with wind gusts to 8 mph.
The Rams will win this game on the road, but it will be a defensive slog with a final score of 24-20. Tampa will score but will also struggle at times with the Rams defense; the Rams will move the ball and finally punch in a few end zone shots from within the red zone trips that have eluded them this season.