With two wins under their belts, the Los Angeles Rams look to continue to silence their critics and award their believers when they take on the Super Bowl champions this week. Both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and LA have sat up on the pedestal of most NFL rankings, so this one will be a fun one to watch on Sunday.
If you made plans, may I suggest cancelling them. Work got you coming in? May I suggest calling out. You will not want to miss this week because these four things just might happen...
Matthew Stafford finishes with over 50 pass attempts
The last time that Matthew Stafford attempted 50 passes in a game was Week 2 of the 2018 season, when he went 34 of 53 for 347 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-27 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Stafford displayed the precision passing he’s known for and played well that day against an emerging 49ers defense and I expect him to do at least as well against the Buccaneers.
Plus, the Rams may have no other choice but to lean on Stafford and break his streak of 40 straight games without going over 45 pass attempts. Why? Tampa Bay has an elite run defense and LA’s backfield is already down three players and could be down a fourth.
Against the Chicago Bears in Week 1, Stafford had one of the greatest debuts with a new team in NFL history when he completed 76.92% of his passes and threw for 321 yards.
Matthew Stafford in his Rams debut:— PFF (@PFF) September 13, 2021
156.1 passer rating pic.twitter.com/OYfBaqO4LM
And Stafford may just have to have his greatest game of the season in order to beat the defending Super Bowl champions. The Buccaneers offense so far this season has been as sensational as expected. Tampa put up 31 points against an improved Dallas Cowboys defense and followed that game up with 48 points against the Atlanta Falcons, a game in which Brady tossed five touchdown passes.
Though the Rams bolster a better defense than both the Cowboys and the Falcons, Sunday’s game could turn into a shootout quickly if Tampa Bay gets off to an early start. If not for two goal line stands against the Bears and the Colts, the Rams would have suffered two touchdowns allowed on each opening drive. If they do not improve, McVay may have to turn the offense over to Stafford and become pass-heavy to keep up with Tampa Bay or to build a giant lead.
The Bucs defense has not been very good against the pass either, and has allowed two 300+ passers in both of their games. Against the Cowboys, Dak Prescott moved the ball at will, throwing for 403 yards on 58 attempts while also tossing three touchdown passes. In week two Matt Ryan threw for 300 yards on 46 attempts and found the end zone twice. If the trend continues this week Stafford will have plenty of opportunities to rack up the yards. and likely cross over 50 attempts, which is almost double the 56 attempts he’s had in the first two games total.
Cooper Kupp sets a new season-high in receiving yards
Fantasy Football has been pretty easy-going if you picked up Kupp this season. The connection between the fifth-year receiver and Stafford has been mesmerizing as it seems like Kupp is open on every... single... play. Right now Kupp is absolutely unstoppable and may be looking for a revenge season after getting snubbed out of the top-100 player list this offseason.
Two years removed from a torn ACL, Kupp is emerging as a dominant number one for Stafford and it will take all the Buccaneers have to bottle him up. In just two games, Kupp has been targeted 22 times, catching 16 passes for 271 yards, three touchdowns, gathering up a lion’s share of Stafford’s attempts. Between Kupp’s spectacular route running and McVay’s scheme to break receiver’s open, Kupp will continue his reign this season and put up another dominant game against the Buccaneers.
Kupp had 108 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, then 163 yards and two touchdowns in Week 2, so I will predict 175 yards and two touchdowns in Week 3.
Rams defense intercepts Tom Brady twice and sacks him four times
When the Rams beat Tampa in Week 11 in 2020, LA’s defense was the deciding factor. Tom Brady put up pedestrian stats against a Brandon Staley defense, gaining only 216 passing yards on 48 attempts, which was a season-low 4.5 yards per pass average.
Expect more of the same with Raheem Morris.
Though this year the defense has a new coordinator, LA still has Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey and so far the Rams have been pretty stout against the pass. They were also slightly improved against the run in Week 2 — holding Jonathan Taylor to 51 yards after suffering 108 rushing yards to David Montgomery in the week prior — and LA’s defense have averaged three sacks and forced multiple turnovers in both games.
Whether or not the Rams are having issues in run defense may not matter, as Tampa Bay ranked 29th in rush attempts in 2020 and they’re 30th this season. The Bucs offense is designed to play into LA’s strength and Sunday’s contest will be a true battle of the league’s elite.
But just like last season, I expect the Rams to intercept Brady twice and to take him down four times, which would be the highest total against him since Week 5 of 2019.
SoFi Stadium offers some homefield advantage “magic”
Though it is part of the job description, Joe Buck was giddy during Thursday Night Football for the opportunity to call “America’s Game of the Week” this Sunday at SoFi Stadium. Not only because of the two NFC heavyweights battling for early season supremacy, but also for the opportunity to see them duke it out in front of thousands of fans at Stan Kroenke’s $5 billion masterpiece of sports architecture.
But what good is a home without some comforts? And a house-warming gift.
This is a game that people expect to come down to a single play or who has the ball last, so I predict that at some point, the homefield advantage will have a significant impact on the game. It could be that the crowd helps create numerous false start penalties, perhaps pushing the Bucs out of field goal range.
Or maybe Tampa Bay kicker Ryan Succop misses an easy field goal attempt, and former Bucs kicker Matt Gay makes the game-winner from long distance. Maybe somewhere near the airport. If the Buccaneers are going to travel cross country to help christen the NFL’s best new stadium, then maybe the stadium will help pay back the Rams a little bit this Sunday.
The Rams offensive line, Sean McVay’s scheme will only allow one sack
There was much speculation going into the season of what the Rams offensive line would be after not adding any linemen in free agency nor using any of their high draft picks to sure up depth.
Brian Allen seems to be the answer for center and has quieted his skeptics after two solid games. Andrew Whitworth continues holding his own as the second-oldest player in the game (and the NFL) on Sunday. The line as a whole has only allowed one sack and each of their games even though they have faced the likes of Khalil Mack and DeForest Buckner.
Truth be told, it will be difficult to keep Stafford off the ground less than two times if he attempts 50 passes, I believe that McVay is well prepared to create a pass-heavy game plan ahead of time that allows Stafford to get the ball off quickly and to trust his receivers to make plays after the catch.
Tampa Bay does have one of the better defensive lines this season and PFF believes they actually rank ahead of the Rams entering the season. Los Angeles will have their hands full with Shaquil Barrett and former Ram Ndamukong Suh, yet despite the talent oozing on defense on Tampa Bay’s side, LA’s offensive line will continue their great season and only allow one sack—leading to a big day from their quarterback.