Los Angeles Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Odds, Picks, and Predictions (1/23/22)
Los Angeles Rams Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Betting Odds
The Rams are coming off arguably their most complete performance of the season in the first game at SoFi Stadium, dismantling their division rival Cardinals as they dominated in all three phases of the game. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, took care of business at home against the Eagles in a dominant showcase of their own. These teams delivered a memorable matchup earlier in LA, where the Rams got the better of Tom Brady’s Bucs, but this time they will be playing in Tampa, where the Bucs have been awesome all season. Depending on who you ask, the winner of this game could or should go on to win the Super Bowl, and I believe this could end up being the best game of the season. Of course, with plenty of intrigue comes plenty of betting interest, and in this preview, I’ll take a look at the best betting angles available for this divisional-round matchup.
Los Angeles Rams Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Injury Report
Los Angeles Rams: OT Andrew Whitworth (ankle) Q, S Taylor Rapp (concussion) Q, DB David Long (knee) Q, WR Ben Skowronek (back) Q
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LB Lavonte David (foot) Q, OT Tristan Wirfs (ankle) Q, C Ryan Jensen (ankle) Q, RB Giovani Bernard (hip) Q, WR Breshad Perriman (hip) Q, OT Josh Wells (quadriceps) Q, RB Ronald Jones (ankle) Q, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (hamstring) Q, WR Cyril Grayson (hamstring) Q
Los Angeles Rams Betting Odds
Matthew Stafford wasn’t asked to do a ton to earn his first playoff win, but make no mistake – he very much earned his near-perfect passer rating against the team that ranks fifth in the NFL in pass defense DVOA. However, Kyler Murray had twice as many passing attempts as Stafford as the Rams consistently won the field possession battle, had an early pick-six, and averaged almost twice as many yards per play. Cooper Kupp didn’t have a monster game by his standards, but I’d expect him to be a much more significant part of the game plan against the Buccaneers’ still-injured cornerback room. Sean Murphy-Bunting is still dealing with the same hamstring injury, and the Buccaneers played Antoine Winfield, a traditional safety, at nickel against the Eagles last week. As great a player as Winfield is, he’s not used to playing in tight coverage against shifty slot receivers, and Kupp is as shifty as they come. The Rams have found new life in their running game, as well, especially with the re-introduction of Cam Akers into the lineup. The Buccaneers are not an easy team to run against, but a solid ground game would allow Stafford to throw against some less intense coverage.
The Rams arguably put together their best defensive performance of the season on Monday in holding Kyler Murray and the Cardinals to just 11 points, but things get much more difficult this week against Tom Brady. Aaron Donald and Von Miller were in full force in that game, and Murray was under constant pressure. It’s been a while, but the Rams sacked Brady three times back in September and put a lot of pressure on the QB throughout the game. That was without Miller, who Peyton Manning said looks like he’s back to peak Super Bowl MVP levels on the MNF broadcast. Of course, Jalen Ramsey is a huge part of what the Rams do defensively, as well, and I’m curious to see how defensive coordinator Raheem Morris deploys him. Mike Evans finished with eight catches for 106 yards against the Rams in that September matchup, and with the rest of the Bucs’ pass-catching corps fairly decimated, the best strategy might be to play Ramsey in shadow coverage against Evans rather than the roaming zone coverage he usually plays. The Rams rank top six in both rush and pass defense DVOA.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Betting Odds
Despite missing Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette, and Ronald Jones, Tom Brady led the Buccaneers’ offense to 31 points through three quarters against the Eagles. Brady continues to defy logic at age 44, and he’s about the last person I want to bet against in the postseason. It’s no sure thing, but it seems likely that Fournette will suit up on Sunday to give the Buccaneers a much-needed rushing presence. All-Pro offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs and stalwart center Ryan Jensen both sustained injuries against the Eagles last week, and as of Wednesday, they have not practiced leading up to this game. I’d still project both to play, but Tom Brady was sacked four times last week despite the Eagles missing their top pass-rusher in Josh Sweat. Things get considerably tougher this week against the Rams, and the offensive line has to be at its best to give Brady time to complete passes to less-accomplished receivers with Godwin and Brown out of the picture.
Tampa’s defense has regressed across the board this season, and their formerly elite run defense is now just an excellent run defense. Devin White struggled down the stretch and Lavonte David has been in and out of the lineup with a foot injury and a stint on the COVID-19 list. Meanwhile, Ndomakung Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul are declining this season as they get older. The secondary has dealt with its fair share of bumps and bruises with Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean, and Carlton Davis all missing significant time this year. To be fair, Tampa still ranked ninth in defensive DVOA and allowed just 20.8 points per game, the fifth-fewest in the NFL. However, they faced three teams in the Falcons, Panthers, and Saints in their division who are not offensive juggernauts, and they still allowed 36 points to a Trevor Siemian-led Saints team earlier in the year. The Buccaneers allowed just 19.5 points per game over their four playoff games last year, but this defense is not as good as it was last year.
Los Angeles Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Picks & Prediction
On paper, everything is pointing me towards picking the Rams to win this game. An injured offensive line against Aaron Donald and Von Miller seems like a recipe for disaster with Tom Brady increasingly immobile and not having the same comfort with his second-string receivers. Matthew Stafford picked apart this defense earlier in the year, and his comfort level with his new teammates has only improved over time. Los Angeles has a ton of wrinkles to throw at the Tampa defense with playmakers across the board and an improving run game to boot.
All that said, there are two things giving me pause here. First, the Rams’ offensive line has been inconsistent down the stretch, and it’s led to Matthew Stafford making some back-breaking mistakes. He wasn’t in a position to do that last week, but he’ll be asked to do a lot more in this matchup. The other issue is that Tom Brady has an all-time divisional round record of 14-2 and hasn’t lost a game in this round since 2011. Even with a limited receiving corps, declining defense, and injured offensive line, Brady has rarely lost these games.
Still, I’m picking the Rams to win, as I genuinely believe they are the better team. The Buccaneers are injured in all of the worst ways, and Tom Brady simply didn’t have the requisite chemistry with his receivers last week against the Eagles to pass the ball against a stout LA pass defense. The Rams are on fire after their win over the Cardinals, and the pass-rush is the great equalizer in this game with Aaron Donald, Von Miller, and Leonard Floyd going against a hampered O-line. Give me the points with the Rams and a big upset win to boot.
My Predictions: Rams win 27-24, Rams cover, over 47 points
Best Bet: Rams +3