Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
Tampa is coming off a brutal loss to Daniel Jones and the New York Giants in a 32-31 effort. The Bucs had a 28-10 lead at halftime and completely blew the lead in the second half. After letting the rookie quarterback carve them up to make the comeback, Tampa still had an opportunity to squeeze out a victory. Matt Gay ended up missing the game-winning field goal attempt which was a brutal blow to the team’s hopes to gain control of the NFC South while Drew Brees is out with his injury. It will be interesting to see how the Bucs respond after a loss like this. The team doesn’t play again in Tampa until November 10th, so they will need to try to stay afloat while they are on the road. Here are the 5 things I want to see against the Rams:
1. How will the team start?
As I alluded to in my opening paragraph, I am looking forward to seeing how the Bucs will look when the game starts on Sunday. Are they going to be full of energy and be ready to shake off their disappointing loss? Or are they going to start sluggish and seem disinterested in competing? Under the leadership of Bruce Arians, I highly doubt we will see the team playing with the last week’s game on their minds. I expect that they will be focused on at the task at hand and ready to go head-to-head with the Rams.
2. Can Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones get the run game going?
One thing that was missing from the loss to the Giants, was the Bucs leaning on the ground game to burn time to hold onto their 18 point lead. Barber was only able to gain 48 yards on his 13 carries, but Jones was more effective by getting 80 yards on 14 rushes. While it was expected that the Tampa offense would be more pass-heavy under BA, at some point they will need the run to help seal a victory when they find themselves in a similar situation. RoJo has gradually shown flashes of his potential and it seems he is about ready to be the lead back. Only time will tell if the coaching staff decides to lean on the legs of the younger player.
3. Will Ndamukong Suh make a game-changing play against his former team?
Suh has never been the stat-grabber at his position because for the majority of his career he has demanded double-teams. As a result, he helps make it easier for players like Shaq Barrett and Lavante David. In his three games as a Buc, Suh has only registered 5 tackles (2 solo), 1 tackle for loss, and 0 sacks while playing on anywhere between 79-89% of the defensive snaps. In a game against his former team in the Rams, Tampa’s defense needs him to help slow down LA’s potent offense. Whether it’s a sack, forced fumble, or a 4th-down stop, the Bucs need Suh to be a difference-maker on Sunday.
4. Should Mike Evans and Chris Godwin be considered as a Top 5 WR duo in the NFL?
The Bucs have quietly put together a talented duo in their receiving corps. While Mike Evans has been on the radar as one of the best receivers in the NFL, Godwin has steadily improved every year and has already had a game in 2019 when all the offensive production flowed through him. Even though their numbers have been down, the Vikings duo, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, entered the season as the best duo in the NFL. While both of them had their own games when they took over, they also had some when the two were equally productive. Once Evans and Godwin can do that and be consistent throughout the season, then they should be in the top wide receiver duo talk. They may need it this Sunday if Tampa gets into a shootout with the Rams.
5. Is the secondary ready for Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods?
After getting torched by Daniel Jones through the air on Sunday, the backend of the Tampa defense is going to need a quick rebound as they head into a difficult matchup against the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL. Even though the Rams offense has somewhat struggled at the beginning of the season, they still have the capability to put up points at any moment. The Bucs secondary will need to do their best to cut Jared Goff off his security blanket in Cooper Kupp. If they can, plus limit the big-play ability with Cooks, then it can help slow down LA’s offense down so they don’t have to find themselves in a shootout all afternoon.