Some would consider Sunday's game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams as the biggest game of the 2021 NFL season to date. The publishers of Sports Illustrated's Buccaneers and Rams websites would agree wholeheartedly.
Below, you can find AllBucs' five question Q&A with Ram Digest, covering Matthew Stafford's addition at quarterback, changes defensively for Los Angeles, and more.
1. First things first: How has Matthew Stafford's addition opened up Sean McVay's offense? Where have you seen the most growth?
Nick Cothrel: Everyone knows the kind of offensive mind that Sean McVay is. However, his offense under quarterback Jared Goff had stalled a bit in recent seasons. Bringing aboard quarterback Matthew Stafford has brought to life the deep ball that McVay so eloquently wanted in part of his passing attack. Through two games this season, Stafford leads the league in yards per completion. With his downfield throwing ability on display, it has opened up the offense to its fullest extent – the reason why the Rams traded for Stafford all along
2. What are the differences between Raheem Morris and Brandon Staley's defenses, and what are your impressions of the unit through two games?
NC: In the transition from defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to now being under the wings of Raheem Morris, there is a lot of crossover between the two defenses. But one notable difference is the volume in which Jalen Ramsey has played the star position. While Ramsey played nickel corner last season at times, he’s seen an uptick at the rate that he’s lined up there this season. In doing so, it has allowed him to offer his contributions in part to the run game as he’s aligned closer to ball carriers. The defense has held up its end of the bargain in Weeks 1 and 2, holding opponents to an average of 19 points per game thus far. The only part where they look somewhat susceptible is their efforts in stopping the run.
3. There's a strong returning core but obviously, the Rams have new pieces in major roles this year. How much better can this team get as it continues to gel? It's already considered a contender in the NFC.
NC: With the Rams still coming together and understanding new roles, players adjusting to the playbook, etc., I think their best football is ahead of them. The Rams sat every starter in the preseason so they’ve only received game-looks since the regular season began. With a new quarterback, new defensive coordinator and two players along the defensive secondary moving into starting roles, I expect better things ahead for this group once they get more experience under their belt.
4. To some, this game is between the two best teams in the NFL right now. Do you agree? Why or why not?
NC: Yes, I do agree the Rams vs. Buccaneers Week 3 contest contains the two best teams in the NFL. From my point of view, they appear to be the most complete teams from top to bottom. I think this will show which of the two teams are the more superior group through the early stages of the season, and perhaps could be a preview of what to expect in the playoffs if these two teams meet.
5. Last year's matchup between Tampa Bay and Los Angeles came down to the wire, do you expect the same this time? What is your prediction for the game?
NC: I do think this is a game that comes down to the very end. The oddsmakers have this game separated by less than a field goal and I tend to agree – it could come down to who has the ball last. In terms of my prediction, a lot will hinge on whether or not the Rams have running back Darrell Henderson healthy enough to play and what that means for their running game. I think this is a game that could fall either way as each team makes a case for why they can come away victorious. Nonetheless, I see it finishing out late in the fourth quarter in dramatic fashion.
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