The NFL's biggest matchup of Week 3, and perhaps the season to date, is on our doorstep.
The Los Angeles Rams, Sports Illustrated's second-ranked team in the NFL, will play host to the No. 1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 4:30 P.M. ET on Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. The teams last met in 2020, with the Rams taking down the eventual Super Bowl LV champions on their home turf in Florida by a score of 27-24.
Will the results be the same this time around, only this time playing on the west coast instead of the east? The SI Sportsbook doesn't believe so: Tampa Bay is considered a two-point road favorite entering the game, with the over/under set at 55.
Let's see if the AllBucs staff agrees, with its weekly picks and predictions filled out below.
This game is going to be a battle of two top passing offenses and, naturally, the score will reflect that. Tom Brady and his arsenal of weapons including Rob Gronkowski, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans have been unstoppable to start the 2021 season - the issue for Tampa Bay, though, is so have Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and company.
To make matters worse, the Bucs' secondary ranks third-to-last in the NFL in yards per game allowed, and has been banged up consistently to start this season. While Stafford has gelled quickly with Los Angeles' receiving corps after his trade from Detroit, the Bucs' defensive backs have seemingly taken a step back in the chemistry they developed in the 2020-21 playoffs.
In addition, Tampa Bay will be without starting edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, weakening a Bucs' pass rush that is disruptive but has struggled to finish plays this season.
Maybe I'm going against the grain here, picking against the reigning Super Bowl champions and the league's top offense in points per game (maybe I'm not - I was the first of the AllBucs staff to submit a prediction). But this contest lies on the Rams' home turf, and their current strength has a favorable matchup against the Bucs' biggest weakness.
This game will be determined by the better passing offense. Tampa Bay might own the better passing offense on paper right now, but I believe its passing defense might be its kryptonite this week.
Although the Bucs are slight favorites on the road, I believe they will return from Los Angeles in the loss column. I've gone back and forth on this because I do think they are capable of winning and it's hard to pick against quarterback Tom Brady.
Still, Aaron Donald and the Rams' defense may be too much for the Bucs. While Tampa Bay did a great job limiting Donald last November, I predict that one of the league's best defensive linemen will record at least one sack on Sunday.
Already without cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, the Bucs won't have wide receivers Antonio Brown and Jaydon Mickens on offense. Also on defense, the Bucs will be without linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul.
Between the missing players, the long trip out west, and Matthew Stafford's strong start to the 2021 season, I have the Rams edging the Bucs for the close win.
I have gone back and forth then forth and back and then whatever is in-between back and forth on this game. There is so much start power. There are so many matchups to be taken advantage of.
It's going to be a great game. As it should be between two great teams. The key is making as few self-inflicted mistakes as possible. Whoever does that will win this game. Obviously, that doesn't bode well for the Buccaneers, who are third in penalties per game and have five turnovers in their first two games. The equalizer here is Tom Brady. He's going to have these guys focused and ready for this game.
Chris Godwin has routinely feasted on the Rams over the last couple of years, recording 19 receptions for 225 yards and three touchdowns. He will have a career game this week, recording 10+ receptions for 170+ yards and 2+ touchdowns.