After suffering an embarrassing 38-3 loss to the Saints on Sunday Night Football two weeks ago, the Buccaneers were able to bounce back and defeat the Panthers 46-23 last week.  They are back in prime time for Monday Night Football, where they host the 6-3 Rams who are coming off an impressive 23-16 win over Seattle.  This is one of the best Monday night matchups we have seen this season, and it is a pivotal game in the NFC playoff picture.

Week 11 Prime Time Picks: Rams (+180) vs Buccaneers (-4.5) O/U 48.5 – All lines via DraftKings

Prime Time Picks: 11-10

Rams Defense Among the Best

The Los Angeles Rams are a very complete team.  Their defense is arguably the best in the NFL, as they have prolific playmakers like Aaron Donald, Micah Kiser, Jalen Ramsey, and Darious Williams making plays all over the field.  Their defensive unit is #1 in total defense in league, allowing just 296.4 yards per game.  They rank in the top-5 in both rushing and passing defense, and are giving up just 18.7 points per game, which is 2nd in the league.  There are not a lot of holes in this defensive unit. They are coming off arguably their best defensive showing of the season, as they were able to hold Russell Wilson and the high-flying Seahawks offense to just 16 points.  They sacked Wilson six times and picked him off twice.  If they can replicate this success against Tom Brady and the Bucs offense, they will put themselves in a great position. 

Goff Leading the Offense

QB Jared Goff leads a Los Angeles offense that is 5th in the league with 395.6 yards per game.  They are 11th in the league in passing offense as they average 261.3 yards per game through the air, and Goff has had a strong season, even if he may not be the most threatening QB out there.  For the season, Goff is completing 66.4% of his passes, has 13 TD’s and 6 interceptions.  He has a rating of 94.9, which 17th in the league.  At his disposal, he has four receivers with over 250 yards this season, and Cooper Kupp (53 catches, 577 yards, 2 TD), Robert Woods (42 catches, 469 yards, 4 TD) and Josh Reynolds (30 catches, 416 yards, 3 TD) each have more than 400 receiving yards.  On the ground, the Rams are putting up 134.2 yards per game, which is 7th in the league.  They have a trio of backs that they rotate through, and Darrell Henderson Jr. leads the team with 102 carries for 486 yards (4.8 YPC) plus four scores on the year.  Malcolm Brown contributes 81 carries for 347 yards (4.3 YPC) and five scores, while rookie Cam Akers Jr. has 45 carries for 186 yards (4.1 YPC).  They really balance the run with the pass well, and don’t get too one-dimensional.  

Rams Rushing Attack vs Bucs Rushing Defense

As strong as the Rams can be running the ball, the bad news coming into this game is that the Buccaneers have a tremendous rushing defense.  They are 2nd in the league with just 76.6 yards per game, and really bottle up opposing rushers.  Furthermore, LA will be short-handed up front as star veteran offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth went down with a knee injury last week.  Whitworth has been a stud left tackle for the Rams since he signed as a free agent in 2017.  The 38-year-old is one of the leaders on this LA team, and his mere presence on and off the field has helped the entire offensive line.  His leadership in the locker room has been undeniable, and it will be interesting to see how the Rams offense, and team as a whole, adjust to not having him in the lineup.  

Brady Bounces Back

After the worst loss of his career two weeks ago, Tom Brady bounced back tremendously against the Panthers.  Brady was 28 of 39 for 341 yards with 3 touchdowns and no picks.  The Buccaneers rolled up a commanding 544-187 edge in total offense, piled up 30 first downs, allowed just 13 to Carolina, and dominated time of possession by a 36:05 to 23:55 margin.  It was the type of game they desperately needed.  Now, they have a much tougher assignment with the Rams defense coming to town.  The Buccaneers are 15th in total offense with 368.5 yards per game, but they are 5th in total points with 29.6 per game.  However, their offense has been very boom or bust, as they have scored over 30 points five times, but all five of those were against less-than-stellar defenses.  Against strong defenses, they have struggled, scoring just 19 against the Bears in a loss, and in their two losses to the Saints, Brady has thrown 5 picks.  The Bucs do have many weapons to utilize offensively, but the Rams defense poses a tough challenge.

Matchups to Watch

With so much talent on each of these teams, this game presents some intriguing personnel matchups.  Rams CB Jalen Ramsey is going to have to lock down Bucs WR Mike Evans.  Ramsey was able to completely shut down DK Metcalf last week, holding him to just two catches for 28 yards.  Ramsey and Evans have yet to face one another, so this 1v1 battle will be fun to watch.  Meanwhile, how the Tampa Bay offensive line handles All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald will go a long way to determining how the Buccaneers fare in this contest.  The Bucs offensive line has allowed 14 sacks this season, and in all three of Tampa Bay’s losses, Brady was sacked three times.  In their seven wins, Brady has been sacked two times or less.  

Rams Head East

The Rams have struggled on the road this season.  They are 2-3 away from SoFi Stadium, as opposed to 4-0 at home, with their two road wins coming against two NFC East opponents in the Eagles (3-6-1) and Washington (3-7).  They were in the state of Florida two weeks ago to face the Dolphins in Tua Tagovailoa’s debut, and the Rams lost 28-17, and never really got anything going offensively against a tough Dolphins defense.  The Rams also traveled all the way from LA to Buffalo earlier in the year, and lost 35-32.  They fell behind early and had to play catch-up in both of those games, so perhaps the long trips made them a little sluggish coming out of the gate.  They travel across the country again for tonights game, but perhaps the extra day to prepare helps them come out ready to roll from the start.

PREDICTION

This is going to be a great game, and it could very well go down to the wire. The Bucs have not had their bye week yet, and Bruce Arians admitted earlier in the week that his team is tired. They are coming off a divisional road game and have a huge showdown with the Chiefs next week. I don’t necessarily think they will be looking ahead, but that is a tough stretch. In addition, I don’t think we really know just how good this Bucs team is yet.  Sure they are 7-3, but five of their seven wins have come against teams with records of 3-6 or worse.  They barely escaped the 3-7 Giants by two points, and they have not played that great against teams with winning records.  The Rams have the defense to slow down this Bucs offense, and I think they will do just that.  The Rams have the 3rd-most sacks this season with 31, and Aaron Donald himself has 9. I think Donald and company will be able to pressure Brady, and he is much less effective when he does not have a clean pocket to throw from. The Bucs are 0-3 when giving up three sacks, and the Rams have the defensive front to reach three sacks, or at least give Brady problems and make him uncomfortable. I think we see a relatively low-scoring game with these two great defenses, so I am doing a Prime Time Picks first: I’m betting both the spread and the total. I have picked the Buccaneers three times in Prime Time Picks, and they have failed to cover the spread all three times. Now, I’m fading them. If their own coach is saying his team is tired right as they are about to face one of the best teams/defenses in the NFC, I don’t think that is a good sign. The Bucs offense has been inconsistent and has struggled against good defenses, so for those reasons I’m going with the Rams +4.5. I also like the Under here, as both defenses are pretty dominant. I mentioned earlier that the Rams are 3rd in the league in sacks…well the Bucs are 2nd. I just think both defenses are so solid and both offenses are inconsistent enough that the chances we get a shootout are slim.

Rams +4.5 and Under 48.5

@stadium_times

Title Photo: Joe Scarnici and Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

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