When the Rams (13-5) take on the Buccaneers (14-4) in Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game (3 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock), a trip to the conference championship game will be on the line. The Rams, who beat the Cardinals in the wild-card round, have aspirations of following the Bucs and playing the Super Bowl in their home stadium. The Bucs, who took care of the Eagles, are hoping to win again in Tampa Bay to keep their repeat hopes alive.
The Rams are led by Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp in Sean McVay’s offense and also feature defensive stars Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller. The Buccaneers remain empowered by the GOAT, Tom Brady, and pride themselves on balance and depth for both sides of the ball.
Who will win the rematch of games in the 2020 and 2021 regular seasons? Here’s how Sporting News sees the late afternoon marquee matchup playing out:
DIVISIONAL ROUND PICKS: Against the spread | Straight up
Rams vs. Buccaneers odds for NFL playoff game
- Spread: Buccaneers by 3
- Over/under: 48
- Moneyline: +130, -154
The Buccaneers have been around field-goal favorites all week, which indicates straight-up home-field advantage in a pick ’em game. The Rams are also a very good road team, which came into consideration. The point total is lower based on the defensive strengths of both teams, despite some potentially explosive offenses.
(betting odds per FanDuel Sportsbook)
Rams vs. Buccaneers all-time series
The Rams hold an 18-9 advantage in 27 meetings, including a classic 11-6 win in the 1999 NFC championship game. They beat the Bucs at home 34-24 in September and also won at Tampa Bay 27-24 in the previous season. The Bucs haven’t beaten them with Brady, last winning in 2019. Brady has beaten the Rams in two Super Bowls with the Patriots.
Three trends to know
—58 percent of spread bettors are liking the Buccaneers are only slight favorites and taking them to handle the number at home.
—69 percent of over/under bettors think the point total below 50 is too low given the potency of both teams passing and running.
—The Rams are 5-5 against the spread and 6-4 straight up in their past 10 games. The total has gone over only four times. The Buccaneers are 7-3 ATS while go ing 8-2 SU in their past 10 games with the total also going over only four times.
Three things to watch
The Buccaneers’ offensive line injuries
Center Ryan Jensen and right tackle Tristan Wirfs are both hoping to play effectively through the ankle injuries they suffered against the Eagles in the wild-card round. The Bucs need Jensen to help work on Donald inside and Wirfs, their best blocker overall, is a big boost to Brady and the running game. Not having wide receiver Chris Godwin (knee) already hurts, but any shakeup up front would hurt more, given that’s one area of lacking depth.
Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski vs. Jalen Ramsey
The Rams have one elite shutdown cover man in Ramsey, but they have questions elsewhere in the secondary at corner and safety. Ramsey has taken top tight ends as assignments before but his natural matchup outside here is Evans with no Godwin or Antonio Brown about which to worry. Brady needs to get the ball out quickly and into a favorable spot to avoid Donald, Miller and Ramsey. Gronkowski and the short-to-intermediate game will need to be huge should Evans get contained downfield.
Odell Beckham Jr. does it again?
Kupp has been awesome all season and it’s opened things up for the veteran No. 2, which was Robert Woods earlier and now is OBJ. He was a key dual-threat playmaker against the Cardinals, showing some red zone pop more so than big-play reliability. The Bucs’ secondary has a tall order and needs help from the edge pass rushing to force Stafford to rush throws to either top receiver.
Stat that matters
65.8 percent. That was the Buccaneers’ rate of touchdown scoring when in the red zone, which was No. 2 in the NFL behind the 49ers. The Rams finished middle of the pack at 60.8 percent. A couple drives that the Bucs punch in short with Brady vs. the Rams not doing so with Stafford can be a big key.
Rams vs. Buccaneers prediction
Expect this to be a defensive-minded struggle early as both teams are loaded to contain the downfield passing games of Brady and Stafford. Then it will come down to patience in the short passing attack and running games, who can sustain longer drives without making mistakes and not settling for as many field goals. Stafford gives the Rams a lot of confidence to get past this round, but it’s hard seeing Brady and the Buccaneers’ bevy of defensive playmakers losing to a more limited team. There’s no doubt Stafford would be the choice to make a critical giveaway over Brady, which ends up making the difference.
Buccaneers 31, Rams 23