One would have to figure that a matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Divisional Round (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBC) would be somewhat more entertaining than their respective first-round matchups.
The Buccaneers walked on over the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round, taking a 31-0 lead entering the fourth quarter before ultimately taking their foot off the gas pedal in a 31-15 result.
Tom Brady was tactical, shrugging off the absence of Leonard Fournette and some offensive line issues that arose with the injury suffered by right tackle Tristan Wirfs to complete 29-of-37 passes for 271 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Nine of those completions and 117 of those yards were reserved for Mike Evans, who was a menace for the Eagles’ defense.
Similarly, the Rams jumped all over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night, taking a 28-0 lead in the third quarter on their way to a 34-11 rout.
Another veteran quarterback — though with no postseason success — in Matthew Stafford accounted for three total touchdowns on the day while the Rams defense held the Cardinals to a measly 183 yards of total offense.
Now comes the real challenge for both teams.
The defending-champion Buccaneers were beaten by the Rams, 34-24, in Week 3 earlier this season. Brady threw for 432 yards and a touchdown on 41-of-55 passing, but it wasn’t enough as Stafford ripped apart Tampa Bay for 343 yards and four touchdowns of his own. Two of those went to Cooper Kupp, who also scored in the Wild Card round as his monster season continues.
This is going to come down to the pass defense and who will be able to get a stop or two out of one of the high-powered units. Head-to-head history suggests that’s the Rams, but the 2021 season numbers favor the Buccaneers.
Rams vs. Buccaneers NFC Divisional Round Tale of the Tape
|No. 4 Rams||Stat||No. 2 Buccaneers|
|13-5 (1st, NFC West)||Record (including playoffs)||14-4 (1st NFC South)|
|27.1 (8th in NFL)||Points/game||30.1 (2nd in NFL)|
|273.1 (5th in NFL)||Passing yards/game||307.6 (1st in NFL)|
|99.0 (25th in NFL)||Rushing yards/game||98.4 (26th in NFL)|
|21.9 (15th in NFL)||Points allowed/game||20.8 (5th in NFL)|
|241.7 (22nd in NFL)||Passing yards allowed/game||238.9 (21st in NFL)|
|103.2 (6th in NFL)||Rushing yards allowed/game||92.5 (3rd in NFL)|
Rams vs. Buccaneers NFC Divisional Round Players to Watch
- Matthew Stafford, QB, LAR: 13-of-17 passing, 202 yards, 2 TD, 22 rushing yards, 1 TD in Wild Card Game
- Cooper Kupp, WR, LAR: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 61 yards, 1 TD in Wild Card Game
- Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LAR: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 54 yards, 1 TD in Wild Card Game
- Von Miller, OLB, LAR: 6 tackles, 1.0 sack, 3 tackles for loss in Wild Card Game
- Tom Brady, QB, TB: 29-of-37 passing, 271 yards, 2 TD in Wild Card Game
- Mike Evans, WR, TB: 10 targets, 9 receptions, 117 yards, 1 TD in Wild Card Game
- Giovani Bernard, RB, TB: 83 yards from scrimmage, 1 TD in Wild Card Game
- Mike Edwards, CB, TB: 9 tackles, 1 INT, 1 tackle for loss in Wild Card Game
A version of this article first appeared on AMNY.com