Two playoff chasing NFC teams face off on Monday night as the Los Angeles Rams travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers. Ben Steele expects a tight game...
"While Tampa Bay's passing tendencies mean Brady will still be throwing regularly, he will do so without his favourite target this week. With that in mind I'd expect the veteran QB to look elsewhere and combine often with Antonio Brown."
Pass happy Buccs face no-fly Rams
In 2019 the Bruce Arians led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers led the league in passing attempts with Jameis Winston playing QB and the arrival of the greatest quarterback of all time in western Florida has, unsurprisingly, changed nothing about Arians' gameplan. Tom Brady has led the Buccs to a 7-3 record while attempting 38.5 passes a game to a myriad of talented receiving corps that has only got stronger as the season has progressed. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, both thousand yard receivers last season, have continued to contribute while the addition of tight end Rob Gronkowski and controversial receiver Antonio Brown have only bolstered the options available to Brady.
In last week's win over the Carolina Panthers the 43-year-old signal caller spread the ball round masterfully. Brown, Evans and Godwin had 19 catches and 238 receiving yards between them and Gronkowski scored his fourth touchdown of the season as Tampa Bay totaled a season high 46 points, this week will be an entirely different challenge. The Los Angeles Rams defence was immaculate against the pass last week, MVP candidate Russell Wilson was held without a passing touchdown and intercepted twice as Rams cornerback duo of Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams shutdown Wilson's best receiving options with ease.
Ramsey, in particular, was at his exceptional best. The former Jacksonville Jaguar has only made 23 tackles this season as opposing quarterbacks seem to totally disregard the receiver he is covering, his physical ability and technical proficiency means he can matchup against any receiver in the league. Last week he followed D.K. Metcalf on nearly every possession, and I would expect him to line up against Mike Evans on Monday night.
While Tampa Bay's passing tendencies mean Brady will still be throwing regularly, he will do so without his favourite target this week. With that in mind I'd expect the veteran QB to look elsewhere and combine often with Antonio Brown. Brady to have under 292.5 passing yards but Brown to have Over 56.5 receiving yards in a Same Game Multi is my pick.
Running backs can benefit from slugfest
With so much ability against the pass it is setting up to be a big game for the Tampa Bay running backs. Ronald Jones of the Buccaneers had incredible success last week, racking up 192 rushing yards including an incredible 98 touchdown run, and will surely be a big part of the gameplan yet again. The third year rusher is averaging an incredible 5.1 yards per carry this season and has shown the ability to score with some regularity.
He is occasionally hampered by the fact that Leonard Fournette eats in to his carries at times, but when he gets going he has proven to be borderline unstoppable. After last week's output Jones will certainly be the leader in the Buccaneers' running game with Fournette playing a supporting role in specific situations, mainly passing downs. The Rams are fifth in the NFL against the run so it will take a big effort from either Buccs runner to put up good yardage totals but LA have given up seven touchdown on the ground so the opportunity to score is certainly there.
Both Jones and Fournette are a good price to score tonight but I'm going to stick with the sure-fire starter and back Jones at 13/10 to score his sixth touchdown of the season.
Prime time woes set to continue for Tampa
Tampa Bay's 2020 season has featured a number of impressive offensive performances and their defence is one of the best in the league in a number of key statistical categories. The linebacker group of Devin White, Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul have terrorised opposing quarterbacks all season as the major pass rushers in a defence that has 32 sacks in 2020. Only the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers can top that mark, and when quarterbacks have been able to throw passes against Tampa, the Buccs lead the league in interception.
However, the blot on Tampa Bay's copybook has come in prime time games, where they have lost two of three and were arguably lucky to avoid defeat in their one win. The Week 8 victory over the New York Giants was patchy, at best, and their two losses came against teams with similar profiles to the Rams. The New Orleans Saints were dominant on both sides of the ball, winning 38-3 but it is the one point loss to the Chicago Bears that is perhaps the most informative. Jared Goff is an upgrade on Bears' QB Nick Foles but they both play a methodical style of offence that features a lot of short passing and reliance on the run game.
With sack-machine Aaron Donald disrupting the Buccs offence in a similar role to that played by Khalil Mack for Chicago, Tampa may struggle to get going, allowing the Rams the chance to control the pace of the game. Backing the visitors to return to LA after a close win of between 1-13 points looks good value.
Ben Steele NFL P/L:
Staked: 39 points
Returned: 38.9 points
P/L: -0.1 points