Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0, 1-1 ATS) at Los Angeles Rams (2-0, 1-1), 4:25 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Bucs 28.5, Rams 27
Spread/Total Movements: Rams -1.5 to Bucs -1.5 , 53.5 to 55.5
Buccaneers Injuries to Watch: WR Antonio Brown (COVID, out), OLB Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder, outl)
Rams Injuries to Watch: RB Darrell Henderson (ribs, questionable)
Brolley’s Buccaneers Stats and Trends
The Buccaneers have played over the total in both games this season and in five of their last seven (postseason included).
Tampa is 8-3 ATS in its last 11 games (postseason included).
Tom Brady is leading the league’s best offense with nine touchdown passes. He’s now thrown for multiple passing TDs in 13 straight games, including 3+ TDs eight times in that stretch. The Rams held him to 216/2 passing last season with two INTs and 4.5 YPA average in Week 11.
Brady fed Mike Evans nine targets (25% share) last week after a quiet season opener, and he responded with 5/75/2 receiving with a pair of goal-line touchdowns. Evans posted 5/49/1 receiving on nine targets in this matchup last season. Michael Pittman recorded 8/123 receiving in this matchup last week.
Chris Godwin has 16+ FP and a touchdown in each of the first two games after posting 4/62/1 receiving on five targets (14% share) against the Falcons last week. Godwin finished with 7/53/1 receiving in this matchup last season with a season-high 10 targets. He’s going to face more of Jalen Ramsey this season since he’s shifted into the slot more in 2021.
Antonio Brown’s availability for this weekend is very much up in the air after being placed on COVID list on Wednesday. AB ran just 21 routes last week, which he turned into 1/17 receiving on three targets. He led the Bucs with 13 targets for 8/57 receiving in this matchup last season. Scotty Miller would see most of AB’s work if he misses with Tyler Johnson also factoring in. Miller scored the pivotal touchdown right before halftime against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game the last time AB missed a game.
Rob Gronkowski looks like he’s back in his prime with two TD receptions in each of his first two games. He’s kept O.J. Howard and Cam Brate mostly on the sidelines by playing on 84% of the snaps. He posted 2/25 receiving on six targets in this matchup last season.
Leonard Fournette led the Buccaneers’ backfield in rushing (11/52), receiving (4/24), and snap share (49%) for the second straight week after Ronald Jones ended up back in the doghouse for more mistakes. Fournette scored a touchdown in this matchup last year but he finished with 8/26/1 scrimmage.
Brolley’s Rams Stats and Trends
The Rams beat the Bucs 27-24 as four-point road underdogs in a game totaled at 47.5 points in late November last season.
The Rams are 5-2 ATS in their last seven home games.
Los Angeles has played over the total in four straight games (postseason included).
Matthew Stafford has attempted just 56 passes through two games, but he’s been highly efficient with five TDs (8.9% rate) and a 10.7 YPA average. Jared Goff attempted 51 passes in this matchup last season while Matt Ryan and Dak Prescott combined for 104 attempts, 703 yards, and five TDs against the Buccaneers in the first two weeks.
Cooper Kupp has been Stafford’s clear favorite with 7+ catches, 100+ yards, and 1+ TD through two games. Kupp went for 11/145 receiving on 13 targets in this matchup last season, and the Cowboys attacked backup slot CB Ross Cockrell for 7/74/1 receiving in the season opener.
Robert Woods got back to a full-time role after playing just 77% of the snaps in Week 1, and it translated into 5/64 receiving on nine targets against the Colts. He crushed the Buccaneers for 12/130/1 receiving on 15 targets last season.
Van Jefferson flopped in Week 2 with just a 14-yard catch on three targets against the Colts, which was a disappointment after he caught a 67-yard touchdown in the season opener. On a positive note, he ran a route on all 32 of Stafford’s dropbacks last week. He caught his only target for a touchdown against the Bucs last season.
Tyler Higbee was one of Week 2’s biggest disappointments with an eight-yard catch on his only target, but he still played on every snap for the second straight week. Higbee caught all four of his targets for 19 yards in this matchup last season. The Bucs have allowed 8.0 catches per game to TEs through two games.
Darrell Henderson suffered a rib injury on the first play of the fourth quarter last and he never played again. The Rams rested Cam Akers for two games after he suffered a rib injury in Week 2 last season. Sony Michel subbed in and posted 10 carries for 46 yards (4.6 YPC) with all of his work coming after Henderson left the game. The Buccaneers are allowing just 49.5 rushing yards per game (4th-fewest) to RBs but backs have posted 9.0/59.0 receiving per game.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Week 1-2 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 24.9 (5th)
Week 1-2 – Plays per game: 60.5 (22nd)
Week 1-2 – Pass: 72.9% (2nd) | Run: 27.1% (31st)
Week 1-2 – Pace: 26.8 (16th)
Week 1-2 – Plays per game: 56.5 (28th)
Week 1-2 – Pass: 54.9% (25th) | Run: 45.1% (8th)
The Rams haven’t been pushed much offensively just yet and they will certainly get their first tough test here against the Buccaneers and a white-hot Tom Brady to start the year. In Week 1, L.A. only needed to run 50 plays to put up 34 on the Bears and they scored on 5-of-10 drives last week on the road against the Colts on just 62 total plays. The Rams are definitely going to have to ramp up their play volume here to keep up with the Buccaneers. Overall, this game is 12th in the pace/plays model because the Rams are middle of the pack in pace and bottom-5 in play volume (because of the style of the two games they’ve played in), but I really don’t think that matters with both offenses trading blows all game long. Tampa has opened the year No. 1 in points scored per play while L.A. is No. 4. Expect plenty of points.
(Note: We’re dealing with very small sample sizes early in the season – so I’m saving the deep dive into play-calling tendencies until Week 4.)
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
The Bucs’ vaunted defense is allowing the fifth-highest completion percentage (73%), sixth-highest third down conversion rate (46.9%), and the seventh-most pure passing FPG to QBs. Obviously, some injuries in the secondary — notably slot defender Sean Murphy-Bunting — hurt, and EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) seems unlikely to play this week. But this might not be the painful draw for Matthew Stafford that you thought on the surface.
While I think Murphy-Bunting’s backup, Ross Cockrell, is completely capable of handling his own, he has to face the hottest WR in the NFL this week, Cooper Kupp. Good Luck.
While no one is going to suggest that any matchup is tough for Tom Brady, the Rams did have his number last year — when these teams met in Week 11 last season, Brady completed 54.2% of his attempts for 216 yards, two TDs, and two INTs. He only averaged 4.5 YPA and his day resulted in a 62.5 passer rating. Of course, that was under the split-safety coverage shells of former defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. New DC Raheem Morris has done some new stuff this year, including…
… moving top CB Jalen Ramsey into the slot. During that Week 11 showdown, Ramsey shadowed Mike Evans. Brady attempted eight passes into Ramsey’s coverage. He came away with a 4/40/0 line and 5.0 YPA for his efforts. Ramsey played just under 80% of his snaps on the outside last season.
In 2021, Ramsey has relocated his home into the slot. And the pattern is contagious. Kendall Fuller is now doing his work from the slot for Washington, and Jaire Alexander has also kicked inside for the Packers, allowing 2021 first-rounder Eric Stokes to enter the starting lineup.
Per SIS, Ramsey has lined up in the slot on 68.6% of his coverage snaps. Meanwhile, Chris Godwin is Tampa Bay’s primary slot receiver, running virtually the same percentage of his snaps inside — 70%. Obviously, that’s not the best news for Godwin.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Look, Tom Brady is cooking. But it is at least worth pointing out that the Rams had his number last season — the Rams are exceptionally good at interior pressure, and that has always been a bugaboo for Touchdown Tom. And Brady will be down a key weapon this week if WR Antonio Brown (COVID) can’t play, as expected.
#GoBucs WR Antonio Brown did not practice and is expected to miss Sunday’s game. Would need two negative tests for COVID-19 at least 24 hours apart. Team travels Saturday. We will update with Bruce Arians following practice.— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) September 24, 2021
Still, Brady is on the QB1 radar. Forgive me for going down “Narrative Street” here, but “narratives” are all that Brady has left to accomplish in his illustrious career. He has 9 TD passes in two games. At current pace (which he won’t keep up, but for sake of argument), he’d throw 76 on the season. But if he throws 3 per game the rest of the season, he’d wind up with 54… one shy of Peyton Manning’s NFL record. Best believe Brady is coming for that record.
Speaking of records that Manning holds, Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski, who has been on the receiving end of 4 of Brady’s 9 TD so far, have 102 touchdown hookups in their career. That’s 12 shy of Manning and Marvin Harrison’s NFL record. Gronk told the Manning brothers himself on Monday Night Football that the record is a goal of his, and the Brady/Gronk combo seems completely locked in right now. It’s no wonder the Bucs don’t run the ball at the goal line. I’m riding Gronk’s hot streak — he’s a TE1.
Tom Brady is the Buccaneers' "goal line back."— Joe Dolan (@FG_Dolan) September 20, 2021
The Bucs have run five plays from inside the opponents' five-yard line.
All five have been passes. All five have been TDs.
Wes outlined above why it’s a tough week for Chris Godwin, but with AB out, I think most have to suck it up and play him as a WR2/3. I do think there’s a good chance for a big game from Mike Evans instead, so I really like him this week. If alignment history bears out, I think Scotty Miller is more likely to fill in for AB than is slot-preferring Tyler Johnson, if you’re looking for a cheap flier.
If you’re going to use a Buccaneer running back for fantasy, it needs to be Leonard Fournette, as Ronald Jones has now had fumbling and pass pro issues pop up. But Fournette is little more than a FLEX option given how the Bucs play offense.
For Los Angeles, Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp (obviously) are exceptionally strong plays. It gets a little murkier beyond that.
Through two games, Ram RB Darrell Henderson has averaged 16 carries, 3.4 targets, 96.6 YFS, and 18.8 fantasy points per four quarters. More impressively, over this span, he's seen a 97% snap share and a 69% route share… but we had to extrapolate over four quarters because a rib injury suffered late last week against Indy knocked him from the game and put the run game on the shoulders of Sony Michel. Henderson is very questionable this week, and his durability issues — not his talent — were why the Rams dealt for Michel in the first place. Still, this a bottom-5 matchup against the league’s best run defense. If you include the postseason and count (by way of technicality) Cordarrelle Patterson as a WR, Tampa Bay has allowed only three RBs to exceed 13.5 fantasy points over their last 16 games. If Michel carries the load, he’s more of an RB3. We might not know until kickoff if that’s the case, however:
Sean McVay says that RB Darrell Henderson (ribs) will be a game time decision based on pain level.— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) September 24, 2021
OLB Leonard Floyd (ankle) will be limited in practice but McVay expects him to play Sunday.
CB Darious Williams is ill (non-COVID) so will miss today but should be back Sunday.
One of the more concerning stats of the season thus far is that Van Jefferson has run more routes than Robert Woods this year (56 to 50), but Woods also saw 9 targets last week (30% target share). And now he gets a matchup against a Tampa Bay defense that’s given up a league-high 67.1 FPG to opposing WRs. Most of the difference in Jefferson and Woods’ routes came in Week 1’s blowout of the Bears, and things evened out significantly in last week’s competitive game against the Colts. I’m considering Bob Trees a WR2 this week, and Jefferson a viable punt play if you need one.
Only two TEs have played 100% of their teams’ offensive snaps this year — the Team’s Logan Thomas, and the Rams’ Tyler Higbee. Higbee is merely the TE24 in total scoring after catching just a single pass against the Colts last week, but the Bucs have given up 8 catches per game to opposing TEs this year, and Higbee’s usage has him on the TE1 radar. He’s a stellar buy-low candidate.