Week 3 Preview: Los Angeles Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After a masterful defensive performance got the Los Angeles Rams into the win column in Week 2, they must now prepare for a trip across the country heading all the way to Tampa to take on the Buccaneers.

These two teams are coming in from opposite sides of the spectrum as the Bucs were completely embarrassed by the Arizona Cardinals last week. Quarterback Jameis Winston committed five turnovers (four interceptions, one fumble) in a 40-7 loss.

Both teams will be looking to get their offenses back on track as the Rams remain the only team in the NFL that has yet to reach the end zone, and the Bucs will have to figure life out without one of their best offensive weapons.

This game could easily wind up being another defensive showdown, but with so much talent on both sides, it wouldn’t be shocking if the offenses control this game too. It is certainly an intriguing matchup.

Rams Offense vs. Buccaneers Defense

The Bucs defense has had some struggles, but the talent is there and that could make for another difficult time for this struggling Rams offense.

The Rams have spoken consistently about getting running back Todd Gurley going, but they will have their work cut out for them against a Bucs defense that ranks 8th against the run through two weeks. The biggest deterrent to that is likely star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

Aaron Donald is widely recognized as the best defensive tackle in the NFL, but McCoy isn’t far behind. McCoy is constantly in the backfield which has been an issue for Gurley this season. He averages more yards after contact than yards per carry meaning he has to get through defenders just to get back to the line of scrimmage. That can’t happen this week if things are going to change.

Additionally, the Bucs have a pair of linebackers in Kwon Alexander and LaVonte David who cover the entire field. David is dealing with a shoulder injury, but is expected to play and his speed can make life hell on the Rams.

The Bucs pass defense has been subpar so far, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t talent in the secondary. It’s unsure whether their struggles have been more internal or a matter of playing two of the NFL’s best aerial teams in Arizona and Atlanta.

Nonetheless, the Rams could certainly stand to establish their passing game and take some pressure off Gurley and the offensive line. Kenny Britt has been the team’s best receiver so far, but at some point the Rams have to get Tavon Austin going, preferably with some downfield routes.

The Bucs have a trio of talented cornerbacks in Brent Grimes, Alterraun Verner, and Vernon Hargreaves so they have the potential to severely hinder the Rams’ passing game, especially if the Rams stick to underneath routes.

This seems like the week the Rams can finally get their offense clicking. However, their strength lines up with the Bucs’ strength and the same goes for their weakness. It’s going to come down to the matter of who executes better.

Rams Defense vs. Buccaneers Offense

The Rams defense has been the strength of this team and was outstanding against the Seahawks last week. They will need to keep up that level of performance against a Bucs offense that has a ton of potential.

As usual, things for the Rams start up front as Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn can wreak havoc in the backfield. The Bucs were dealt a blow with the loss of running back Doug Martin due to a hamstring injury. Things now turn to Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers to get the ground game going for the Bucs.

Last week the Rams were stout against the run after a huge struggle in the opener. Between the line and the linebacking duo of Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron, the Rams should be able to contain a run game that is missing it’s biggest weapon.

The passing game could be a little tougher. Jameis Winston will undoubtedly be looking to right things after his rough outing against the Cardinals and in Mike Evans he has one of the league’s biggest and best receiving options. In addition to Evans, Vincent Jackson and slot receiver Adam Humphries have been frequent targets of Winston’s.

Needless to say, the pressure will be on the secondary from the beginning. Trumaine Johnson, LaMarcus Joyner, and Coty Sensabaugh will have to be on point as the Bucs are capable of putting up a lot of points quickly and the safeties will need to keep an eye on Evans at all times.

Overall Prediction:

This is a tough game to call as it’s unsure which version of the Bucs is closer to the real one, the Week 1 version or the Week 2 version.

The Rams defense will again have to lead the team. Without Martin, the Bucs defense should be more one-dimensional and easier for the Rams to contain, though Charles Sims has had huge games before.

On offense, the Rams may again struggle to run the ball, but they have to get things going through the air. Case Keenum has to be a threat to go downfield with the ball and Britt and Austin need to make some big plays.

One intangible could be the team traveling across country. West coast teams don’t exactly have the best history when heading to the Eastern Time Zone. This is also the Bucs’ home opener so emotions will be high on that side.

If the Rams can withstand the initial rush that is sure to come, and somehow establish Gurley this is a game they can win. The Bucs offense is dangerous, however, and the Rams can’t match their firepower.

It should be close, but I see the Bucs just edging this, 21-20.