Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers matchups, how to watch and prediction

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey signals no catch as Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans walks away Jan. 23, 2022.
Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey signals no catch as Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans walks away during an NFC divisional-round playoff game Jan. 23 in Tampa, Fla. The Rams won 30-27.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Breaking down how the Rams (3-4) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5) match up heading into their game at 1:25 p.m. PST on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. The game will be shown on CBS (Ch. 2) and streamed on Paramount+ and NFL+.


When Rams have the ball

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp walks off the field with medical staff after getting injured Oct. 30, 2022.
Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp walks off the field after suffering an ankle injury during Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. Kupp appears to have recovered and will play at Tampa Bay.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

For the first time since an Oct. 9 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys, running back Cam Akers might play for the Rams. The third-year pro returned to the team after an exile that lasted more than two weeks. But as of Friday, coach Sean McVay would not say whether Akers would play for an offense that ranks second to last in the NFL in rushing.


Last season, quarterback Matthew Stafford engineered a last-minute, winning drive against the Buccaneers in an NFC divisional-round playoff game in Tampa, Fla. Stafford has passed for seven touchdowns, with eight interceptions, this season.

Star wide receiver Cooper Kupp suffered an ankle injury late in Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers after McVay’s ill-advised called for a pass play with the Rams trailing by 17 points. Kupp, however, appears to have recovered and will play against the Buccaneers.

Look for Stafford to get Van Jefferson involved. The third-year pro played for the first time this season in their loss to the 49ers, but he was not targeted.

Linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David lead a Buccaneers defense that also features lineman Vita Vea, who has a team-best 4½ sacks. Cornerback Jamal Dean has intercepted two passes.


When Buccaneers have the ball

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers
At age 45, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady ranks second in the NFL in passing yardage, but Tampa Bay’s offense has struggled to run the ball.
(Don Wright / Associated Press)


Quarterback Tom Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl champion and once with Tampa Bay, remains efficient at age 45. He has passed for nine touchdowns with one interception — none since the season opener. Brady ranks second in the NFL behind Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow in passing yardage.

The pass-happy Buccaneers conversely rank last in rushing, but they do not lack talent. Running back Leonard Fournette has rushed for two touchdowns, and he also is second on the Buccaneers with 37 receptions, three of them going for touchdowns.

Receiver Mike Evans has a team-best 39 catches, three for touchdowns. Chris Godwin is another top target. Julio Jones returned from injury and caught his first touchdown pass in the Buccaneers’ loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 27.

Lineman Aaron Donald has a team-high four sacks for a turnover-starved defense that will attempt to pressure Brady into rare mistakes. Edge rusher Leonard Floyd broke through against the 49ers for his first two sacks of the season.

Linebackers Bobby Wagner and Ernest Jones will lead the effort to neutralize Fournette. Star cornerback Jalen Ramsey is the pivotal player in a defensive backfield that will be challenged by Brady and his experienced and talented receiving corps.


When they kick

The Rams’ Matt Gay, who began his career with Tampa Bay, kicked a 30-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Buccaneers in the playoffs last season. Gay has made nine of 10 field-goal attempts this season. Ryan Succop, Gay’s successor with the Buccaneers, has made 19 of 20 field-goal attempts.

Gary Klein’s prediction: The Rams have enjoyed success playing against the Buccaneers in Tampa. But this season they have not shown they can score consistently. And Brady and the Buccaneers are due to end a three-game skid.