By Max Luckan
This week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have lost four games in a row, will take on the St. Louis Rams at Raymond James Stadium. The Rams, are owners of a tie, which occurred earlier this season against the San Francisco 49ers. Both teams likely won’t make the playoffs, so this game won’t have any severe implications. However, both teams have struggled at times this season and will be looking to finish the season strong. The Bucs are in a bit of turmoil at this point in the season and things haven’t gone their way lately, while the Rams appear to be slowly improving.
The Rams currently hold a 6-7-1 record, with the third number representing the tie from earlier in the season. Their record is good for third in a tough NFC West Division that features powerhouse teams such as the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. The Rams are actually much better than their record indicates. They have wins over the 49ers, Seahawks, and Washington Redskins. All three of those teams are currently in playoff contention.
But the Rams also have suffered some tough losses. Right before their bye week, they lost 45-7 to the New England Patriots. And last week, the Rams lost 36-22 to a Minnesota Vikings team that is in contention for a playoff spot, but is also very beatable.
Rams on Offense
The Rams have third-year quarterback Sam Bradford as leader of their offense, and he’s played relatively well in his first year under head coach Jeff Fisher. But the Rams throw the ball a lot. The Rams throw the ball 34 times per game on average even though they have a capable running back in Steven Jackson. They rely heavily on the passing game, but are effective with play-action because of the threat of Jackson running.
Wide receiver Danny Amendola is Bradford’s favorite target and is a deep-ball threat at times. Because of the Rams’ utilization of play-action, their receivers can often get open down the field. Jackson is a tough, physical runner that won’t roll over for the Bucs’ linebackers.
Rams on Defense
On defense, the Rams have some interesting prospects. Rookie defensive tackle Michael Brockers has played well at times on defense for the Rams, but he hasn’t really impressed like some of the other defensive rookies in the NFL have. Brockers has four sacks to his credit so far this season, along with one forced fumble.
The Rams also have fifth-year man Chris Long on the defensive line. He’s racked up 7.5 sacks this season. Overall, the Rams do a good job of rushing the passer and actually have one of the better defenses in the league. They’re ranked 16th in the NFL against the run and 24th against the pass, but are ranked ninth overall in total defense.
Rams Players to Watch
Sam Bradford: The quarterback should always be a player to watch, but Bradford has played extremely well at times this year, so the Bucs’ secondary will have to be on their toes.
Steven Jackson: Jackson is one of the most underrated running backs in the league because he gets the tough yards. But he’s able to break off big runs and wear down defenses.
Cortland Finnegan: Finnegan’s status is still uncertain, but Bucs QB Josh Freeman has struggled lately. But against Finnegan, one of the top corners in the league, he’ll have to be extra careful.
The Bucs and Rams actually have played 19 times. The Rams currently lead the all-time series having won 11 out of 19 games, and the Bucs last beat them in 2004. This will be the first meeting between Greg Schiano and Jeff Fisher, but the stakes won’t exactly be very high.
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Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.