The Rams will face the Buccaneers for the third time since Tom Brady's arrival to Tampa Bay with L.A. holding the 2-0 advantage in their previous two meetings.
But everyone knows Brady's rich history in the playoffs – especially while playing at home. The Rams will look to make it three in a row against Brady with the stakes on the line in which the winner will advance to the NFC Championship game.
Here are the top storylines to follow ahead of the Divisional Round matchup, featuring two of the conference's top teams:
1. Can the Rams win the turnover battle?
The majority of the turnover battle lands on the right shoulder of Matthew Stafford. When Stafford protects the football and stays within Sean McVay's gameplan, he's more technically sound, preventing turnovers. With linebacker Lavonte David making his return last week and all signs pointing toward an increased role this Sunday, the Bucs defense is getting stronger.
Tampa Bay has speed at every level of the defense and Stafford will have to ensure he doesn't let his guard down as Tampa Bay's quickness can ignite turnovers in a hurry. There are still questions about the health of left tackle Andrew Withworth’s ankle, so the play-action passes will likely be a vital part of the gameplan for Stafford's passing attack.
2. The Rams plan to slow down Tom Brady
The Rams are suffering in the secondary with injuries. Certainly, getting Eric Weddle back was a huge mental boost as well as returning an effective player to the field. However, the loss of safety Jordan Fuller makes everything in the secondary more difficult. Linebacker Ernest Jones has been designated to return from injured reserve, but he'll have an uphill climb to play key snaps this week against Tampa Bay.
For L.A. to slow down Brady, obviously keeping the ball out of his hands is important. But, the biggest key to beating Brady is bringing pressure with four. If the Rams' top-tier defensive lineman can produce effective pressure and allow seven defenders to drop into coverage, that will spell success for Raheem Morris' group.
3. The battle of the rushing attack
Two of the most important players in this game are Sony Michel and Ronald Jones. Both quarterbacks have produced at a dramatically higher level when implementing play-action passes, so incorporating the rushing attack early on will be critical. Additionally, the play of backups Cam Akers and Giovani Bernard will be key in the passing game and third down situations.
The Rams offense has always thrived under a potent rushing attack. The success Brady has had is documented when he has a top-tier running game, so whoever leads the stat line in rushing yards and yards per attempt on the ground, will likely be moving on to the NFC Championship.
Regular Season Records: Rams (12-5), Bucs (13-4)
Previous Meeting: Rams defeated the Bucs 34-24 in Week 3 of the 2021 regular season
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Odds: Rams +3
Stat: Tom Brady is 23-7 at home in the playoffs in his career.
Keep An Eye On: How the Tampa Bay offensive line holds up against the Rams' pass rush.
Rams' Key To Victory: Run the ball, emphasize play-action and keep Tom Brady off the field.
Date/Time: Sunday, January 23 at 12 p.m. PT
Location: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, Florida)
Radio: 93.1 JACK FM
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