LA Rams (13-5) at Tampa Bay (14-4)
When: Sunday, January 23rd 2022
Where: Raymond James Stadium,
Time: 3:00 ET | TV: FOX
Opening Odds: Tampa Bay -1.5/47.5
We have a monster matchup in Sunday’s NFC Divisional Round game between the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Raymond James Stadium. Tom Brady and the Bucs won last year’s Super Bowl in this stadium and are poised to invade Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium next month should they take care of business the next two weeks. It won’t be easy against a surging Rams team that obliterated the Arizona Cardinals in Monday night’s wild card game 34-11. Quarterback Matt Stafford finally got the monkey of his back with his first postseason victory in four tries, but that was a home game and now the team must go on the road and knock off the defending champs. Should the Rams win this game, they will either play at Green Bay or host San Francisco in the NFC Championship.
The Bucs also had an easy time last week in their wild card matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. Brady and the Bucs were never threatened in a 31-15 victory, scoring the game’s first 31 points. Tampa Bay did have a tough time with the Rams earlier this season. The Bucs went to L.A. and dropped a 34-24 decision to the Rams. Stafford passed for 343 yards and four TDs, DeSean Jackson had 120 receiving yards and a touchdown and Cooper Kupp added 96 receiving yards and two TDs for the Rams. Tom Brady passed for 432 yards and a touchdown and ran for another. However, this game is in Tampa and dating back last year, Tampa Bay has won 11 of their last 12 home games. They have covered in seven of their last nine home games and the total has gone Under in six of Tampa’s last seven games against NFC teams.
Stafford wasn’t asked to do much in last week’s blowout win, but he was efficient. The first-year Ram completed 13-of-17 passes for 202 yards and two TDs and added a score on the ground in helping the Rams gain a 21-0 halftime lead. Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. both caught touchdown passes. Kupp led the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947) and receiving TDs (16) during the regular season. Stafford will need all the protection he can get and left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who missed most of last week’s game with a knee/ankle injury, is questionable for Sunday. Defensively, the Rams will need the big names to step up including Von Miller, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. Miller had one of his best performances as a Ram last week, finishing with six tackles and a sack.
The Bucs looked postseason ready last week in dispatching the Eagles. Brady finished with 271 passing yards and two TDs and leads the NFL in passing yards (5,316), touchdowns (43), attempts (719) and completions (485). The running game was missing Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II last week, but Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard stepped up, combining for 97 yards and two scores on 30 carries. Fournette and Jones are both listed as questionable this week. The team is already without Chris Godwin (ACL) and Antonio Brown (left team), so Evans, who finished with 117 receiving yards and a TD last week, will be the focal point. Defensively, the Bucs are ninth and 12th in total and weighted DVOA, respectively. The Buccaneers are 7-1 against the spread in their last 8 games as a home favorite.
This should be an entertaining game. These teams have played some high scoring games against each other and this one should be no different. To me, it comes down to the quarterback play and it’s not even close. Stafford is still a postseason newbie, while Brady is just the best. I’ll take the Bucs.
Pick: Bucs -3
Divisional Round Staff Selections