Man, the list of remaining NFC teams just got a lot shorter, didn't it?
Super Wild Card Weekend was a good one, but now it's time to move on to the Divisional Round, where the stakes are even higher and threat of a Buccaneers loss becomes greater than the week before.
Before we begin let me make one thing clear: All three remaining NFC teams are very, very good. There are no cupcakes in the following lineup, whatsoever. Picking between these three teams is like choosing if one wants to die by electrocution, decapitation, or a shark bite.
All of the options stink.
So, who poses the biggest threat to the Buccaneers heading into the Divisional Round?
Let's dive in and find out.
3. Green Bay Packers
Overall DVOA in 2021: 9th
Offensive DVOA in 2021: 2nd
Defensive DVOA in 2021: 22nd
Points for/allowed in 2021: 26.5 (10) / 21.8 (t-13th)
Jaire Alexander has returned to the lineup and Z'Darius Smith is back at practice. Add in the return of David Bakhtiari and it's easy to understand the excitement up in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is in MVP form and the Packers have a two-headed monster at running back.
It's simple: the Packers are scary.
But they're the least scariest of the Bucs' three remaining opponents
But this is still mostly the same team and coaching staff that lost to the Bucs in the NFC Championship. And it's still mostly the same Bucs team that beat the Packers.
This is no disrespect toward the Packers. They're the No. 1 seed for a good reason and they're in much better shape this year than they were at this point last year. But until they take care of the demon that is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it's hard to see them as the ultimate threat in the NFC.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Overall DVOA in 2021: 6th
Offensive DVOA in 2021: 5th
Defensive DVOA in 2021: 7th
Points for/allowed in 2021: 25.1 (13th) / 21.5 (t-9th)
I wrote last week that the 49ers are the hottest team in the NFC and they proved me right as they took down the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas despite being 3-point underdogs.
The only thing keeping the 49ers from taking over the top spot is the play of Jimmy Garoppolo. He can swing the game in the opposition's favor at any moment and that's just too much of a detriment in the postseason. If you want to beat the Bucs in the playoffs, you have to have strong quarterback play, which the 9ers don't have.
Outside of Garoppolo, the 49ers are crazy good. Their front four is the NFC's best remaining pass rush and their offense is so well-executed and so effective that it can make any defensive coordinator look like the Bucs version of Mike Smith. This team would be a matchup nightmare for Tampa Bay.
But alas, Jimmy G is the mountain in the way of the 49ers' Super Bowl aspirations, and that's what keeps the 9ers out of this list's spotlight.
1. Los Angeles Rams
Overall DVOA: 5th
Offensive DVOA: 8th
Defensive DVOA: 5th
Points for/allowed: 27.1 (7th) / 21.9 (15th)
You hate to base anything off one game, but the main reason why the Rams weren't ranked No. 1 last week was because we didn't know which Matthew Stafford would show up against the Cardinals.
Well, we found out. And boy, did the Rams look great when their quarterback wasn't giving the ball away to the other team.
Sean McVay's offense is one of the best in the NFL when it's firing on all cylinders. He has Todd Bowles' number, too. The Rams have averaged 33.7 points per game and McVay is 2-1 over his last three games against the Bucs.
But honestly, it's more about the Rams defense, than anything. The Bucs have scored 24 points in both games against the Rams with Tom Brady at quarterback. They average 31.8 points per game over the other 30 games with Brady at the helm and that includes three total points in two matchups against the Saints, as well.
Von Miller is on fire with 6.0 sacks over the last five games and Aaron Donald is Aaron Donald. Leonard Floyd is opposite Miller. Add in Troy Reeder's career year and you have a scary front seven.
And if that wasn't enough, Jalen Ramsey is still in the secondary and Darious Williams is still a capable corner despite having a goose egg in the interception column this year.
There's also the fact that the Bucs play the Rams this weekend, which obviously makes the Rams an immediate threat. That's the cherry on the poop sundae that is this matchup.
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