When the Rams (13-5) take on the Buccaneers (14-4) in Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game (3 pm ET, NBC and Peacock), there will be a trip to the conference championship game at play. The Rams, who beat the Cardinals in the wild-card round, have aspirations to follow the Bucs and play in the Super Bowl at their home stadium. The Bucs, who took care of the Eagles, hope to win again in Tampa Bay to keep their repeat hopes alive.
The Rams are led by Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp on Sean McVay’s offense and also feature defensive stars Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller. The Buccaneers continue to be powered by the GOAT, Tom Brady, and pride themselves on balance and depth on both sides of the ball.
Who will win the rematch of games in the 2020 and 2021 regular seasons? Here’s how Sporting News sees the afternoon’s main game:
Rams odds vs. Buccaneers for NFL playoff game
- Spread: Buccaneers for 3
- Below: 48
- money line: +130, -154
The Buccaneers have been close to the field goal favorites all week, indicating a clear home-field advantage in a pick ’em game. The Rams are also a very good road team, which was considered. Point totals are lower based on both teams’ defensive strengths, despite some potentially explosive offenses.
(bet odds per FanDuel bookmaker)
All-time series Rams vs. Buccaneers
The Rams have an 18-9 lead in 27 meetings, including a classic 11-6 win in the 1999 NFC championship game. They beat the Bucs at home 34-24 in September and also won at Tampa Bay 27 -24 in the previous season. The Bucs haven’t beaten them under Brady, the last win was in 2019. Brady has beaten the Rams in two Super Bowls with the Patriots.
Three Trends to Know
—58 percent of spread bettors like that the Buccaneers are only slight favorites and lead them to run the number at home.
—69 percent of over/under bettors think the point total under 50 is too low given the power of both teams passing and running.
—The Rams are 5-5 against the spread and 6-4 straight in their last 10 games. The total has been exceeded only four times. The Buccaneers are 7-3 ATS while going 8-2 SU in their last 10 games and the total also tops just four times.
three things to see
Center Ryan Jensen and right tackle Tristan Wirfs hope to play effectively despite ankle injuries they suffered against the Eagles in the wild-card round. The Bucs need Jensen to help work Donald on the inside and Wirfs, their best blocker overall, is a huge boost to Brady and the running game. Not having wide receiver Chris Godwin (knee) already hurts, but any change up front would hurt more, given that it’s an area that lacks depth.
The Rams have an elite coverage man in Ramsey, but they have questions elsewhere in the secondary at cornerback and safety. Ramsey has taken the best tight ends as assignments before, but his natural matchup out here is Evans without Godwin or Antonio Brown to worry about. Brady needs to get the ball out quickly and place it in a favorable spot to avoid Donald, Miller and Ramsey. Gronkowski and the short-to-mid game should be huge if Evans holds his own on the field.
Kupp has been incredible all season and has opened things up for the veteran No. 2, who was once Robert Woods and is now OBJ. He was a key dual-threat playmaker against the Cardinals, showing some burst in the red zone more than reliability on the big plays. The Bucs’ secondary has a tough job and needs the help of the rim pass to force Stafford to throw quick passes to any of the top receivers.
Statistics that matter
That was the Buccaneers’ touchdown scoring rate when they were in the red zone, which was No. 2 in the NFL behind the 49ers. The Rams finished in the middle of the pack at 60.8 percent. A couple of drives that the Bucs hit short with Brady against the Rams that don’t with Stafford could be a big key.
Prediction Rams vs. Buccaneers
Expect this to be a defensive-minded fight from the start, as both teams are set to contain passing games from Brady and Stafford. Then it will all come down to patience in short passing offense and running games, who can sustain longer runs without making mistakes and not settle for as many shots from the field. Stafford gives the Rams a lot of confidence to get through this round, but it’s hard to see Brady and the Buccaneers’ defensive group losing to a more limited team. There’s no question that Stafford would be the pick to make a critical draw over Brady, which ends up making the difference.