Gameday: Bucs open at home with Rams

Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire

Tampa, FL-

What’s At Stake?

Whatever’s left of the good vibe the Bucs created when they beat the Falcons in Week 1. That victory already seems like it happened months ago. Lose today to the Rams and it will feel like it happened last season. The NFL is a momentum league and a second straight loss today will rob the Buccaneers of all the momentum they had coming out of Week 1. Not only that but you’ll also start to hear a lot of talk of the Bucs going into the bye at 1-4. Win, however, and the talk will turn to how the Bucs overcame the loss of running back Doug Martin, defensive end Robert Ayers and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and could be playing for first place in the NFC South when they got to Carolina in two weeks.

Key Matchup

The Bucs had all kinds of trouble handling Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald in the meeting these two teams had a year ago. Arguably the best defensive tackle in the game right now, Donald made five tackles, including two for a loss and hit quarterback Jameis Winston three times. The only thing he didn’t do was sack Winston. Tampa Bay will need to improve on that effort today because Donald will have Robert Quinn with him on the Rams defensive front and that should make Donald more dangerous. The Bucs are sure to double team Donald but to win this matchup they may need to keep a back in the backfield as an extra blocker.

Buccaneer to watch

Vincent Jackson has yet to play a game this year where he’s looked like the perennial thousand-yard receiver he’s been for the better part of his 12 years in the NFL. He’s had some trouble gaining separation from his defenders, he’s dropped a couple of passes and he’s been out of sync with quarterback Jameis Winston. Jackson says he’s healthy and that there are no problems between him and Winston but it will take a big game for anyone to start believing that. Opponents are going to start double teaming Mike Evans even more if Jackson can’t regain his usual form so the Bucs need a bounce-back game from Jackson today. If they don’t get it rumors about him being done will only persist and gain validity.

Statistically speaking

Jackson isn’t the only notable offensive threat who hasn’t looked like his old self so far this year. Rams running back Todd Gurley hasn’t played up to his 2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year form either. He’s carried the ball 36 times for 98 yards (2.7 yards per carry) so far and his road shouldn’t get any easier this week. The Bucs have struggled overall defensively, but their problems have come mostly against the pass. Against the run the Bucs have been nothing short of solid, allowing an average of just 3.0 yards per carry (third best in the NFL) and 78.5 yards per game (eighth best in the NFL). Oh, and they have yet to allow a rushing touchdown in 2016.

He said it

“Don’t be fooled by that. Don’t be fooled by that. They can put up numbers. And they have a lot of play-makers. They have one of the best running backs in the league and (wide receiver) Tavon Austin is un-humanly fast, and Kenny Britt, you know, when he’s on, he can pile up the numbers. And Case Keenum ain’t no joke either. He gets the ball out of his hand really quick. So don’t be fooled by what you’ve seen in the first two weeks. This is a week-to-week league. Anything can happen. So we can’t be going into the game like “Oh, they haven’t scored a touchdown.” So what? They could score ten on us. We have to try our best to make sure that doesn’t happen.” Bucs DT Gerald McCoy.

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