Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
The Bucs are coming off an impressive 46-23 win over the Carolina Panthers as they totaled 544 yards as the offense appeared to hit their stride. Tom Brady shook off his previous 3 interception game against the New Orleans Saints by tossing for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns. Ronald Jones had a career game as he rushed for 192 yards and a touchdown that he took 98 yards to the house. Let’s not forget to give praise to the defense as well, the unit held Carolina to a total of 187 yards plus they added an interception on the day. The team will need to keep this momentum rolling into Monday night as they face the Rams in what could have an impact on the NFL playoff picture later down the road. Here are this week’s Top 5 things I want to see in this primetime matchup:
1. How does the interior of the offensive line hold up against Aaron Donald?
Ali Marpet appears to be set to miss his 3rd game with a concussion, in last week’s game, Bruce Arians made the decision to start A.Q. Shipley at center and moved Ryan Jensen to left guard. That moved helped the team establish the run game and held the Panthers to 1 sack. They will have a much different test this week in Aaron Donald, who arguably will go down as one of the best defensive players to play in the NFL. Donald has 9 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recoveries, 26 tackles (15 solo), 7 tackles for loss, and 17 QB hits in his 9 games. If the interior of the offensive line gets manhandled by Donald, then it would be a long night for Brady and company.
2. Can the defense take advantage of Jared Goff’s blindside because of the loss of Andrew Whitworth?
Goff is one of those quarterbacks who struggle when under pressure and lacks the ability to stretch plays out to allow them to develop. His veteran left tackle is out for the foreseeable future and will be turning to Joe Noteboom as his replacement, the #12 prospect for LA in the Blitzalytics Prospect Encyclopedia. He has played as a guard in the NFL but did fill in nicely for the Rams last week against the Seattle Seahawks. Noteboom will be tested on Monday night as Todd Bowles will be creative on how to disrupt the pocket. Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul will need to bring the heat so they don’t let Goff have the time to carve up their secondary.
3. Who will Jalen Ramsey stick to?
Ramsey is having a Defensive Player of the Year performance with his ability to shut down whoever he is lining up across. Per PFF, against up-and-coming D.K. Metcalf last week, had 37 coverage snaps, 2 targets, and allowed 0 completions. His size and ability would make one think that he will more than likely face off against Mike Evans for most of the night. Or will LA defensive coordinator, Brandon Staley, get creative with Ramsey and use him on a variety of weapons from the Tampa passing attack. Regardless, Ramsey has the talent to shut off his side of the field, and Brady may have to decide to look elsewhere for the majority of the matchup.
4. Does Sean McVay outsmart Todd Bowles?
When these teams faced off last year, it was a mixed bag of results for both sides of the ball. McVay’s offense had a total of 518 yards, of which 490 of them came through the air. Despite giving up all the production, Bowles defense forced 4 turnovers, which were 3 interceptions, and a Ndamukong Suh fumble recovery for a touchdown which capped off a 55-40 victory for the Bucs over the Rams. This might come down to who can win the turnover battle, Tampa won last year 4-1. If Bowles can get his defense to bottle up the Los Angeles rushing attack, and confuse Goff, then I like the chances of the Bucs getting a win in primetime.
5. Is this the game Antonio Brown scores his first touchdown as a Buc?
In 2 games, AB has 10 catches for 100 yards on 13 targets and has 1 lonely rush for -3 yards. Despite his quiet debut, he has opened up things for the Tampa offense, which allowed Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to have bounce-back performances against Carolina. AB hasn’t shown any diva mentality since he has joined the team and even was willing to return punts last week. After having a few weeks to get acclimated to the roster, it just makes sense that he is set to find the endzone for his first time in 2020. Brady just missed him on a potential bomb touchdown and I feel like he will want to make things right with his latest weapon. I expect that Brown will exit Monday Night Football with a score.