Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ St Louis Rams: Rams can give the Bucs a battering

No.5 is alive: Winston is belying his rookie status to keep Tampa in the play-off picture
No.5 is alive: Winston is belying his rookie status to keep Tampa in the play-off picture

Despite limping out of divisional contention, Romilly Evans still urges you to back an ailing St Louis at home to visiting Tampa Bay...


"Even New Orleans, the league’s 32-ranked defense, managed to keep the Bucs from securing a first down until the second quarter"

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ St Louis Rams
Start-time: Friday, 01:30
TV: Live on SS1

Well, St Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher had said he'd run out of answers. So as the questions consequently continued to mount up, Fisher found a convenient scapegoat instead. And sacked offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti. Turns out Nick Foles wasn't the machine they were looking for either, only a machine of interceptions.

In their place, Fisher has fallen back on the play-calling of Rob Boras and the pacy paws of Todd Gurley, while Case Keenum has taken the reins under center. On recent evidence, snapping a five-match losing run 21-14 against a resurgent Detroit, Fisher has at least papered over the cracks until the end of the season.

The Lions D is useful, and Boras' schemes allowed Gurley to put up 140 yards. Previously, the Rams had amassed a paltry 18 touchdowns in 12 weeks, scoring fewer than 14 points in seven of those 12 games. In short, while the ill-effects of another underachieving season may endure, the poison has been sucked from the wound.

Furthermore, the Rams appear collectively committed to finished the season strongly, as befits any professional outfit. However, while they could yet attain the mid-table mediocrity of an 8-8 record, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still have a postseason shot. In theory, that is. In reality, it looks less likely, with the likes of Seattle and Minnesota streaking for a Wildcard Spot.

So while many will argue that the psychological drivers are with Tampa here, I would counter that they're fighting over a dead-rubber - and deep down the Bucs know it, too. Indeed, St Louis' home advantage seems the bigger motivator - for what could even be their final game in town if they do relocate back to LA.

For their part, the Bucs will rely on Jameis Winston (who most recently completed 18 of 32 passes for 182 yards against New Orleans) and running man Doug Martin, the NFL's second-leading rusher, to move the chains. However, their output is progressively predictable. For while rookie Winston is understandably yet to assimilate the offensive playbook, Martin's relentless pounding remains probable. Even the Saints, the league's 32-ranked defense, managed to keep the Bucs from securing a first down until the second quarter. So the Rams' D, emboldened by one of the NFL's most fearsome front-fours, will fancy their chances of ushering in multiple three-and-outs.

On the other side of the ball, Keenum is still erratic. However, he did post a completion percentage closer to 60 against Detroit (as mentioned, a useful outfit) which is up from career numbers nearer to 50%. He'll have an easier time tonight against Tampa, and only needs improve a little to be the key variable for positive change. Gurley, though, is already St Louis' Mr Dependable in this his rookie season. He can steal the offensive limelight from Winston and Martin in what should prove a comfortable victory.


Recommended Bets

Back St Louis Rams to win on the Match Moneyline @ 1.814/5 or better
Back St Louis Rams (-7.5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 3.02/1 or better
Back St Louis Rams (-1.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 1.824/5 or better
Back Over 20.5 Total St Louis Rams Points @ 1.981/1 or better

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