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Rams-Bucs: Matchups to Watch

The NFL is a game of matchups and who does best at exploiting their key matchup advantages. Let's take a look at some of the key matchups for this week's game.

Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Rams will be at Raymond James Stadium today to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Each team is coming into this game following losses in their home openers.  The Rams pretty much failed to show up for their season opener, while the Buccaneers fell behind 17-0 against the Carolina Panthers before finally getting points on the board midway through the 4th quarter.  The Bucs are under the guidance of former Rams Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith.  It may take a few games for Smith to really establish this teams identity. With Doug Martin at tailback and big physical receivers, Vincent jackson and Mike Evans, the Bucs will likely try to establish a power running offense in 2014.  Just like the Rams and their hopes for a power running game, the offensive line will have to perform much better in week 2.  Can either of these teams salvage some of the high hopes for the season?  Lets take a look at the key matchups for this week 2 showdown.

Rams O-line vs. Bucs D-line

The Rams offensive line certainly underwhelmed in the season opener.  They were unable to generate any running lanes for the backs, as well as keep their QBs upright.  The unit has to be much better across the board in week 2 if the offense is to find any success against the Bucs.  The Bucs defensive line features one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL in Gerald McCoy.  The Bucs did place defensive end Adrian Clayborn on IR this week, as well as ruled DE Michael Johnson out for this weeks game.  The Rams offensive line should find it a little easier to keep their QB upright without the threat of Tampa's top two DEs.

So how does this matchup look, which team does it favor?  Well on paper the answer would clearly be the Rams.  Of course on paper the Rams offensive line should have had the edge against the Vikings in week 1 and we all saw how that worked out.  Given the injuries along the Bucs defensive line you have to give the nod to the Rams on this matchup, but never underestimate the Rams ability to disappoint.

Rams Secondary vs. Bucs WRs

The Rams secondary will be challenged in week 2, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans form a physically imposing tandem on the outside.  Janoris Jenkins has been good against larger WRs throughout his career, and EJ Gaines impressed in his NFL debut, but the Rams may miss the presence of Trumaine Johnson in week 2.  The combination of Evans and Jackson is similar to that of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey of the Chicago Bears.  Last season those two combined for 159 yards and 1 TD on 14 receptions, with a majority of the damage done by Marshall.  The Rams wont have to contend with the ultra-athletic Austin Seferian-Jenkins at Tight End, as he has been ruled out for this contest.

Can the Rams young secondary slow down the Bucs passing game?  Can TJ McDonald, EJ Gaines and Janoris Jenkins continue to build off their solid performances in week 1?  When looking at this matchup there is certainly the chance the Rams secondary is up to the task this week.  The smart money would be on the Bucs receiver corps with the edge in this matchup.

Next Man Up

While this isn't necessarily a matchup between units or opposing players, it will certainly be an important aspect of the game to watch.  Each of these teams will be counting on the next man up to perform in this game.  The Rams may be counting on Austin Davis at QB again, as Shaun Hill will be a game time decision.  The Rams will also of course be counting on a rotation of players to fill in for the incomparable Chris Long.  For the Bucs there is the stand ins for both Clayborn and Johnson along the defensive line.  On offense Logan Mankins and Doug Martin are both listed as questionable with knee injuries.  With all of these key players missing from the starting lineup the game could very well be decided by one of these backups.  Every NFL team has to call on a backup player from time to time for a big performance, but neither of these teams expected to rely on so many of them so early in the season.

Game Prediction

I predicted a low scoring affair in this weeks Prediction Roundtable, and I am going to stick by it.  The Rams can win this game if the offensive line does a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage and lets the running game get going.  The Rams should have the special teams and field position advantage, something that is critical in a low scoring defensive struggle.  Whoever starts the game at QB needs to manage the game, and avoid the costly mistake in order for the Rams to get the win.

This game likely wont be pretty, but for those who enjoy old school smash mouth football it may be precisely what they are looking for.  Thanks for reading and as always, Go Rams!!!