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By: Evan Craig
Why are the Bucs favored to win in Week 9?
The Los Angeles Rams hope to rebound this week by playing a familiar struggling NFC foe in the Buccaneers. Both teams find themselves under .500 at midseason and are trying to put a run together to prevent a further tumble down the standings.
It’s time to relive the glory days as L.A. defeated Tampa in both meetings last season, including in the divisional round, as Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp each had their way with the Bucs’ defense. In the Divisional Round, TB fought back from a 27-3 deficit to tie the game before Kupp did this:
9️⃣ TO 1️⃣0️⃣ TO SET UP THE WIN! pic.twitter.com/1hrjkOa4lQ
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 23, 2022
Ah, the good old days. What I would give for a time machine right about now. Anyways, with the Rams still reeling after yet another season sweep at the hands of the 49ers, I spoke with Gil Arcia from SB Nation’s Buccaneers blog Bucs Nation to gain more insight into L.A.’s opposition ahead of the playoff rematch this weekend.
Q – Tampa Bay hasn’t played like the NFC contender most around the league have expected. The offense has been dismal as they’ve scored a measly 18.3 points per game through the first eight games as OC Byron Leftwich has come under fire for his play calling. What has been the biggest issue for the Bucs’ offense and how could they turn it around?
A – It’s been a combination of several things. The play calling from Leftwich has been questionable, miscommunication on routes, and the big one — in my opinion — Tom Brady’s poor execution. I wrote about the latter recently (twice: here and here) where the future Hall of Famers throws have been off-target and more often than not short of the receiver for several weeks now. The short routes are also not helping Tampa Bay’s offense. There have been a much higher count of routes and throws before the sticks and even more throws at or behind the line of scrimmage. It’s night and day different than what we have seen in recent seasons and whether it is Brady not allowing time for plays to develop because of offensive line concerns or because that is just what has been called in this offense if below average at best. Ultimately, Brady obviously has the ability to change plays at the line. He’s not audibling out of them and has even audibled into them. This has been what has been hurting the Buccaneers offense through eight weeks.
Q – A lot has been said about Tom Brady’s play in 2022 as he’s struggled in establishing long-term chemistry with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. All of these guys have played with each other for three years now so what could be an explanation as to why Brady and his playmakers have appeared so out of sync at various points this season?
A – Again, it’s essentially for the reasons listed previously. There were three throws to Godwin in Pittsburgh that Brady skipped to him. In Carolina, same things happened and even had throws directly thrown into the hands of Panthers defenders where two guaranteed interceptions were dropped. Believe it or not, this happened yet AGAIN Thursday night against the Ravens last week, and his throw to tight end Cade Otton at the goal line forced the Bucs to settle for a field goal rather than a touchdown after his throw was behind Otton allowing a Baltimore linebacker to easily get his hand on the ball and bat it down. His completion percentage is misleading because the throws are happening within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. They are going to Godwin and Evans in those instances, even screens to Evans which is a head scratcher since Godwin is much better running those since Evans is the better blocker. There is just so much bad going on right now.
Q – In Thursday night’s loss to the Ravens, Pro Bowl linebacker Shaq Barrett tore his Achilles and will be out for the year. Who do the Bucs have on the depth chart that can fill in for Barrett while he’s out?
A – Second-year rusher Joe Tryon-Shoyinka will see an increased role now which will be good to see despite already starting this season. He’s got some good moves and is incredibly quick. But with an increased role he can now utilize more of his abilities. Anthony Nelson and Carl Nassib will continue to rotate in which they already were anyhow. Nelson is actually a very decent edge rusher, and Nassib is a veteran that doesn’t appear to have lost a step. But getting back to Tryon-Shoyinka, it’ll be very interesting to see how he is utilized now that he is the top edge rusher in Barrett’s absence.
Q – Moving onto another linebacker…Devin White seems pretty close to walking the plank in Tampa as his effort has been coming under scrutiny following a poor performance last week. Despite Todd Bowles saying he doesn’t have a problem with White, why has there been a sudden drop-off in production and how could he rebound against the Rams?
A – This is undoubtedly a weird one. The reason why I say that is that White still made plays. While on the other hand you were left wondering what happened on a few others. What has been consistently occurring is the missed tackles, and this is across the board. White gets the full blame because he is at the center of the defense. But it gets deeper with missed gaps and assignments that aren’t all on White. In the second half, the defense just went missing for whatever reason. They got comfortable with a 10-3 lead and were expecting the Ravens to continue running the football since they were so successful against the run in the first half. It may have even caught them by surprise.
Q – DraftKings Sportsbook has Tampa Bay listed as 2.5-point favorites with an O/U of 42.5. What is your prediction for Sunday’s game and how could the Bucs end their three-game losing streak?
A – I have been laughing at these lines nearly every week. I don’t know if it is because of the Tom Brady effect or what but oddsmakers have not stopped favoring Tampa Bay even against the Chiefs back in Week 4. This is a prime example why I told Cat Scratch Reader a couple weeks ago that despite the Buccaneers 11-point spread, if the Bucs were to win it wouldn’t be close to double digits. Oddsmakers aren’t watching games. Like last week, Tampa Bay had no reason to be favored until the offense can prove competent enough to remember how to play their game. They can end their losing streak by actually being able to keep drives going and giving more time back to the defense to rest. But I have no faith in them doing so. Brady can’t make the same mistakes he’s been making this season against a Rams defense that still has Jalen Ramsey in the secondary. I have the Rams winning this one 27-13.