Rams X-Factors To Watch Against The Buccaneers
The Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will meet at SoFi Stadium this Sunday. This is a clash of the titans, two heavyweights facing each other like Tyson and Holyfield. It is early in the season but both teams have Super Bowl aspirations and come into this contest undefeated. The Buccaneers are defending Super Bowl champions while the Rams are trying to be the second team in history to host a Super Bowl in their own stadium. We are going to discuss the x-factors to watch against the Buccaneers and how they will affect the outcome of this battle of NFC favorites.
Offensive Line’s Biggest Test
Two weeks into the NFL season and the Rams and coach Kevin Carberry have this offensive line looking like a top-five unit. The Rams have faced two top-tier front sevens and came away with an A grade each time. Led by Andrew Whitworth, the Rams have given up only 2 sacks and 11 pressures. The Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts were both playoff teams last year and boast tough front sevens. However, the Buccaneers are without a doubt the toughest test the Rams will face all year. Led by Shaquil Barrett, the Buccaneers’ defense has totaled 44 pressures and 2 sacks thus far.
The Rams will have to provide Matthew Stafford with protection if they want to win this game. The Buccaneers roster is filled with guys who can apply pressure at any given moment. Vita Vea will be an especially tough matchup for Brian Allen. Rookie Joe Tryon will look to continue proving to people that he can be an elite pass rusher in the NFL. If the Rams can find a way to neutralize Tampa Bay’s dangerous pass rush then they stand a chance at making the plays necessary to send the Buccaneers home with their first loss of the season. The pass protection will be arguably one of the most important x-factors to watch against the Buccaneers.
Pressure Brady On Third Down
Raheem Morris’ defense needs to stall Tampa Bay on third downs. The defense cannot continue to let teams slowly march upfield en route to a score. The Buccaneers are currently converting just 39 percent of their third-down attempts. Meanwhile, the Rams are allowing teams to convert 45 percent of third downs. However, when fourth down attempts are included the Rams are only allowing a 37 percent conversion rate by offenses.
Tom Brady and the Buccaneers want to throw the ball, it is the clear strength of their offense. If the Rams want to stop them on third down they’re going to need to get pressure on Brady early and often. Against the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons, the Buccaneers have only allowed 16 pressures and 2 sacks. Those teams aren’t nearly as good at getting to the quarterback as the Rams, though. Interestingly, through the last two weeks, Morris’ defense has come up with 41 pressures and 6 sacks. Notably, the Rams missed getting home against Carson Wentz five or six times due to his escapability; something Brady obviously lacks.
Just as the Rams have a tough test, so do the Buccaneers. Aaron Donald, Justin Hollins, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Leonard Floyd won’t make it easy on them. The defensive line outside of Donald will need to capitalize on every single one-on-one matchup in order to stifle the Buccaneers’ offense. How much pressure the Rams can apply to Brady and how that may affect third downs and field position will be one of the most anticipated x-factors to watch against the Buccaneers.
Let Stafford Cook
For as good as the Buccaneers are they have allowed 700 passing yards and 5 touchdowns through two games. The Cowboys in particular gave them fits due to how many playmakers their offense has. The same can be said of the Rams playmakers on offense. Stafford has thrown for 600 yards and 5 touchdowns through two weeks of play.
There is a very clear connection Between Stafford and Cooper Kupp. Kupp has managed to look like he has taken his game to a whole other level this season. He is clearly the go-to target in the offense at the moment. Robert Woods has struggled a little to get involved and remain consistent which is uncharacteristic of him. Despite those struggles, look for Woods to get on the same page this week. Woods has been doing everything he can to make an impact and I have a feeling they will need him to make some key plays on Sunday.
Involve The Tight Ends
This week it may be key to get Tyler Higbee involved in the passing game again after a quiet day against the Indianapolis Colts. Higbee may not be the fastest tight end but he runs good routes and has solid hands. Sean McVay should look for ways to scheme him open against the Buccaneers. Currently, the Buccaneers’ defense is allowing tight ends to do whatever they want. After a big performance by rookie Kyle Pitts, they have given up a total of 16/16 passes for 173 yards. This could even be a good time to get Jacob Harris some looks.
How Stafford chooses to pick apart the Buccaneers’ defense on Sunday will be one of the most exciting x-factors to watch against the Buccaneers. Hopefully, he can distribute the ball at will to his playmakers. If Stafford is allowed to get hot he could out-duel Brady and keep the Rams undefeated. McVay should be able to scheme plenty of good looks for Stafford and Stafford will need to maximize those opportunities to give the Rams a chance at beating the Buccaneers.
Red Zone Passing Defense
Tampa Bay is scoring on 70 percent of their red-zone appearances at the moment. A large portion of those scores have been through the air. Rob Gronkowski, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans have combined for 7 touchdowns in the red zone. The Rams will need to find a way to stop that production. If the Rams can get turnovers and force field goals they can build some momentum.
Thus far, the Rams have only allowed 29 passing yards and no receiving touchdowns in two weeks in the red zone. Gronkowski in particular will need to be slowed down as he has 4 of Brady’s red zone scores to his name. How the Rams’ secondary responds to a great red zone offense will prove to be one of the more intriguing x-factors to watch against the Buccaneers.