The Los Angeles Rams showed out over the Arizona Cardinals in the Divisional Round, cruising past their NFC West rival to a 34-11 victory. The Rams dominated in all three phases, playing one of their most complete games of football this season.
But now they'll have a tougher test ahead of them. Going on the road to face Tom Brady and the defending champions – what worked last week for the Rams might need some re-tooling against a team full of playoff experience.
With a do-or-die game on the line, here are our staff predictions and picks ahead of the Rams and Buccaneers Divisional Round matchup:
Nick Cothrel, Publisher
The Rams got the better of the Bucs in Week 3 when they defeated the Tom Brady-led Bucs for the second time in two seasons. Now, months removed from their last meeting, the Rams have since then added key midseason additions – Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. – who'll provide further mismatch problems for Tampa Bay. The issues for the Rams stem on the injury front. Brady's football IQ is about as good as any quarterback the game has seen, therefore I wouldn't put it past him to exploit the Rams' group of safeties who'll be placed into starting roles while L.A. misses starters, Jordan Fuller and Taylor Rapp. Meanwhile, the Rams will also be forced to turn to Joe Noteboom at left tackle with Andrew Whitworth nursing a knee injury suffered in last week's game. Similar to the Rams, the Bucs noted center Ryan Jensen and left tackle Tristan Wirfs as questionable on the final injury report, which would put their offensive line in disarray if they can't suit up against the L.A. pass rush. Ultimately, I think Brady does just enough, attacking the soft spots in the defense en route to a last-minute finish.
Prediction: Buccaneers 30, Rams 28
Connor O'Brien, Writer
A faceoff between two heavyweights in the NFC, Sunday’s contest shapes up to be a good one. Both teams are coming off statement victories over teams who didn’t look like true playoff challengers. Earlier this season, the Rams handled Brady and the Bucs offense. Now, the Bucs offense is down star receiver Chris Godwin after his season ended with a torn ACL. The Jalen Ramsey and Mike Evans matchup will have a huge impact on the game, as secondary wide receivers, Tyler Johnson and Breshad Perriman lack experience and trust from Tom Brady. With the Rams offense seemingly back on the rise, I think they do just enough to squeak by Brady and the Buccaneers.
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Prediction: Rams 30, Bucs 28
MJ Hurley, Writer
Matthew Stafford is about to face his greatest playoff challenger yet. Facing off against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, this will be the most important game of Stafford’s career through his 13 seasons. Meanwhile, a good majority of the Rams' roster and Sean McVay have playoff experience. Ultimately, your opinion on this game comes down to your trust in Brady versus your trust in the McVay-Stafford duo. At the end of the day, the Bucs are favored in this game and for good reason. I have Tampa Bay moving on to advance to the NFC Championship, as I think Brady will be too much for the Rams to slow down.
Prediction: Bucs 30, Rams 17
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