This week's Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Los Angeles Rams game is one of the biggest matchups of the young season. Many are dubbing Sunday's contest as an early NFC Championship preview.
The stakes are high, which means the bold predictions should be even bolder. Let's dive in and see what shakes out this week.
5. Matthew Stafford outperforms Tom Brady
How many times have you heard this in your life? Odds are like, once. If ever.
Well, that will change on Sunday.
This is especially bold when you consider Stafford's history against Bowles-led defenses. In three games, Stafford is 0-3 and has completed 62% of his passes for 747 yards, three touchdowns, and five interceptions. He's been sacked five times and his offenses have averaged 14.7 points per game.
Now obviously, this is all in the past when he played for the Lions and it has basically zero bearing on this week. Sean McVay - and his offense - are completely different animals. Combine the Bucs' secondary woes and the fact that the pass rush isn't getting home and you'll see why Stafford makes amends for the past on Sunday.
4. Chris Godwin and Cooper Kupp combine for 250+ receiving yards and 2+ touchdowns
Per Pro Football Focus, Jalen Ramsey has been the primary slot defender for the Rams, so that doesn't bode well for Godwin. However, when you consider the fact that Darious Williams and David Long Jr. - the Rams' two outside corners - are both under 6-foot-0, then it makes sense to move Ramsey outside on Mike Evans. Plus, there's the fact that Ramsey shadowed Evans on 73.3% of his routes last year. Even Bruce Arians said he'd be surprised if Ramsey isn't around Evans.
This makes for an interesting scenario as to who defends Godwin when he's in the slot. The Rams play a ton of zone, so they can mix and match and cover Godwin up with different defenders, but this offense is loaded with option routes to eat that up.
Kupp, on the other hand, has around found a connection with Stafford through the first two weeks and he's the exact type of player in the exact type of system that kills this Bucs defense. Shifty, versatile, and just an all-around great receiver, Kupp will eat on Sunday.
These circumstances lead to both players popping off for big games, which should make plenty of fantasy owners happy.
3. The Bucs shut down Aaron Donald for the third straight year
We all know how disruptive Donald can be. Per PFF, he averages around six pressures per game over the last two regular seasons. He has 26.0 sacks over the last two seasons, as well.
The Bucs have figured something out when it comes to limiting Donald's production. Per PFF, he has just 2.5 combined tackles and five total pressures in the last two meetings against the Bucs. And it's not like the Bucs are allowing other players to step up in exchange for defending Donald - the Rams have three combined sacks in the last two meetings.
Don't expect this to change on Sunday.
2. Both rushing attacks combine for less than 100 yards
A lot of this stems from the potential loss of Darrell Henderson Jr. It doesn't seem like he'll play and if he doesn't, that leaves Sony Michel as the lead back. Henderson is a very good zone runner and can really stretch the defense horizontally. Michel, however, is purely north-and-south when it comes to his running style. To put it mildly: The Bucs defense dines on these types of runners like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
But even with Henderson Jr., the Rams aren't world-beaters when running the ball. And the Bucs, well, let's just say Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II combined for eight yards on four carries in the second half last week.
The Bucs and Rams have combined for 195 rushing yards on 79 carries (2.47ypc) over the last two years. Expect the same this weekend.
1. Both teams combine for more points than the 2019 meeting
Expect some major fireworks on Sunday. Even more so than the 2019 battle that ended with a final score of 55-40.
Just to get an idea of how rare that was, check out The Athletic's Greg Auman's tweet below in order to obtain full context:
This week's game will surpass 2019's total, which will result in the most combined points in a single game in Buccaneers history. And you know what? I'll go ahead and double down: This game will surpass the combined score from the 2018 Rams-Chiefs game, as well.
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