Sunday 9.25PM Preview: Two NFC heavyweights collide as Bucs and Rams face off in LA.

The reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Inglewood, California this week to face off against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. That very stadium will host Super Bowl 56 in February, where one of these teams could very well represent the NFC. Both of these sides are expected to be challenging for that honour so this game could have huge seeding implications in what is only Week 3 of the regular season.

Tom’s still got it

At the age of 44, Tom Brady has looked like a quarterback in his mid-twenties so far this season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. TB12 won his seventh ring in February, his first for the Bucs, and so far this season has thrown for 655 yards, 9 passing TDs, and 2 INTs, earning a passer rating of 113.3. All of that data has contributed towards a 93.0 PFF grade, making Brady the highest-graded QB through the first two weeks.

Age is just a number, of course, and that is telling when you realise that Brady is on track this season to throw more passing touchdowns in his forties than he did in the whole of his twenties. That’s insane! To be competing this well, at the highest level, at the age of 44 is absolutely remarkable. It just shows that with good nutrition, and unbelievable amounts of determination, anything is possible.

McVay’s new toy

Matthew Stafford’s trade to the Los Angeles Rams was completed before the 2020 season had even ended, and only weeks after the Rams divisional round exit to the Packers. Sean McVay was frustrated with Jared Goff’s limitations and made a move for Stafford a week before the Super Bowl. They had to give up a lot, including Goff himself, but already seem to be enjoying the reward. 

Stafford has added an extra dimension to their offense already this season, having thrown for two touchdowns of over 50 yards length through the first two games. That’s something his predecessor did throughout the whole of last season. Overall, the former Georgia Bulldog, and former Number 1 overall pick has thrown for 599 yards, 5 TDs and 1 INT, racking up a 127.0 passer rating and 82.9 PFF grade (7th among all QBs)

Cooper Kupp is the real deal

Cooper Kupp has been one of the most underrated pass catchers in the entire NFL over the past few seasons, he is the Rams’ most dangerous weapon in my opinion, he can take the ball and glide, creating plays after the catch with his legs. Before the year began, he had already equated to 3,570 yards and 27 touchdowns in 4 seasons. The ex-Eastern Washington Eagle has a career average of 68.8 yards per game (31st all-time). Which is higher than the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Davantae Adams, and Steve Smith. Yet his average fantasy draft position is 53.08.

Kupp mainly lines up in the slot, which could be a huge problem for the Bucs as their slot CB is Ross Cockrell who is PFF’s 90th graded corner, out of 100 eligible players (45.9 total defense grade). That’s a massive issue as in this young season, Kupp has certainly hit it off with Matthew Stafford, already putting up 3 receiving touchdowns and on average 136 yards per game. Those statistics have made Kupp PFF’s highest-graded receiver with a 90.7 grade over the past two games.

Predictions

This one is tough to call, not only do the Rams have Stafford and Kupp, they also have two First-Team All-Pro defensive players in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. That’s a lot for Tampa to deal with. That being said, the Buccaneers also have a dominant nose tackle in Vita Vea, an elite pass rusher in Shaq Barrett, and a great linebacker group including Lavonte David and Devin White.

These two teams looked destined for the postseason, and I really wouldn’t be surprised to see them battle it out in the NFC Championship Game. Right now I’m leaning towards the Rams as they are at home, have a healthier defense, and finally because the Bucs are one weapon down as Antonio Brown has COVID. It’ll be interesting to see how they potentially cope without Darrell Henderson though, should he not be able to play due to his rib cartilage injury. You’d like to think Sony Michel will be the lead back, but knowing McVay, it could be anyone. 

Rams 29 Buccaneers 27

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