The Buccaneers will head west to Los Angeles, their first trip to LA in 26 years as they take on the NFC champion Rams on Sunday afternoon.
The Bucs are coming off a tough 32-31 loss to the New York Giants in which the Bucs shut down Giants running back Saquon Barkley and eventually Barkley ended up leaving the game with a high ankle sprain.
The Rams meanwhile are coming off a tough Sunday night win in Cleveland against the Browns. The Rams won 20-13, but needed a John Johnson interception with 33 seconds to go in the end zone to seal the win for the Rams as the Browns were driving.
This will be the third week in a row that the Bucs defense will be going up against one of the top running backs in the NFL. Todd Gurley anchors the Rams running attack and earlier this week, Bruce Arians said that the focus this week will be on stopping Todd Gurley.
The defense did a great job against Carolina running Christian McCaffrey holding him to just over 50 yards in the Bucs 20-13 win. Barkley did not even get 30 yards against the Bucs before leaving with the ankle injury.
Let’s hope this week that the Bucs don’t focus so much attention on Gurley that wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks run wild against the Bucs young secondary.
The Bucs defense had no answer for Giants tight end Evan Engram last week who hurt the Bucs in the passing game with over 100 yards receiving.
This will be a homecoming of sorts for Bucs running back Ronald Jones who played his college at USC. Jones returns to LA as the Bucs leading rusher with 164 yards and has helped the Bucs to the eighth best running attack in the league this season.
Defensively The Bucs are 14th overall giving up 331 yards a game. Where the Bucs have made the most improvement is in the run defense as they rank 6th in the league giving up just 70 yards a game.
The Rams defense will be a tough challenge for the Bucs offense. The Rams have the number three overall defense in the league giving up 286 yards a game.
The addition of linebacker Clay Matthews has helped solidify the linebacker position as he has been able to get pressure on the quarterback consistently and leads the Rams with four sacks.
Defensive linemen Aaron Donald will be a challenge for the Bucs offensive line as they will need to know where he is lined up on every snap.
Former Bucs defensive back Aquib Talib anchors the Rams secondary along with John Johnson. Johnson leads the Rams with two interceptions on the season.
If the Bucs are to play toe to toe with the Rams the defense will have to have a game plan to stop the Rams big three. Not just Todd Gurley, but also Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp.
One of the big keys to the Bucs defensive improvement this season has been their ability to tackle and not giving up big plays after the catch.
Under Dirk Koetter, the tackling was a disgrace at times, but this is much improved under the new defensive staff led by Todd Bowles.
linebacker Devin White will miss his second consecutive game with the knee injury, and Jamel Dean will also be out again this week.
Vita Vea, Chis Godwin, and Ryan Jensen all missed practice time this week with various nagging injuries, but should be ready to go on Sunday afternoon.
This will be a tough game for the Bucs to win as the Rams are 9.5 point favorites.
The Bucs should be competitive most of the game, But the Rams will make a couple of more plays than the Bucs and win the game 30-23.
-The Bucs placed quarterback backup Blaine Gabbert on IR this week and promoted defensive linemen Patrick O’Conner from the practice squad. O’Conner was one of the final cuts of the Bucs during training camp.