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Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Los Angeles Rams - prediction, team news, form guide

Sports Mole previews Sunday's NFL clash between the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.

A pair of NFC teams with championship expectations will face off at SoFi Stadium on Sunday as the Los Angeles Rams host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Both clubs are 2-0 to start the season as the Rams engineered a late field goal to edge the Indianapolis Colts 27-24 last week, while the reigning Super Bowl champions turned a close game with the Atlanta Falcons into a blowout, winning 48-25.

Match preview

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady throws the ball against the Dallas Cowboys on September 10, 2021© Reuters

The season is still young, but offensively the Bucs look as good as any side in the NFL at the moment with over 700 yards of total offence in their first two games, scoring 31 and 48 points, respectively.

Head coach Bruce Arians has always been about playing aggressively and taking risks, and so far, those risks have paid off as they have started the year at 2-0 for the first time since 2018.

It is a good thing that they have been so efficient with the ball because they have a lot of holes to plug on the defensive side at the moment, allowing 799 yards of offence already.

Their secondary has been lit up, allowing 684 yards through the air with their defensive line struggling to get a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, with only two sacks up to this point.

Tampa have been an explosive team on offence thus far, who can strike quickly, engineering four touchdown drives last Sunday, which took six plays or less.

If you go into a shootout with this team, you usually end up on the losing end of things as the Bucs have won 10 straight games dating back to last season, including the playoffs, scoring 30+ points in each of their previous nine encounters, the longest such streak in NFL history.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (18) celebrates with tight end Tyler Higbee (89) and receiver Josh Reynolds (83) after scoring on a 65-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals during an NFL International Ser© Reuters

While the Bucs have relied on explosive plays to win their opening two games, Sean McVay and the Rams have won by holding the ball for long stretches and converting all of that time of possession into points, scoring six times in their opening two games on drives of eight or more plays, including a 12-play drive which led to a game-winning field goal last weekend in Indy.

When they get off to a quick start, the team once referred to as "The Greatest Show on Turf" during its days in St. Louis are tough to beat, currently 10-1 when scoring a TD on either of their first two offensive possessions.

LA have won seven of their last nine home games, so they should feel pretty good playing in their own back yard against a team that they defeated last season, in a back-and-forth encounter that saw three lead changes and four different ties before LA pulled it out with a late field goal.

Defensively the Rams have struggled against the run, allowing 134 yards against the Bears and 109 versus the Colts.

If you cannot get enough penetration up the middle and pressure against the Tampa Bay pivot, you will have a hard time shutting down the potent Super Bowl champs, and early on this year, the Rams have been better in that department with three sacks in each of their first two games.

The Rams are eighth in league scoring at the moment and 12th in yards allowed on defence while averaging 30.5 points per game, putting them second in the NFL behind Tampa Bay.

Los Angeles Rams form:
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers form:
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Team News

Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate beating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship on January 24, 2021© Reuters

The Rams have arguably the best defensive player in football in Aaron Donald, who has been handled so far with only one sack in the first two games, while Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams are two of the top cornerbacks in the league, with Ramsey collecting his first interception of the season last week against the Colts.

Linebacker Leonard Floyd has an ankle issue, running back Darrell Henderson is nursing a rib injury, while Taylor Rapp leads the team in tackles with 19.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford is having an MVP-like season so far for his new team as the Rams pivot is completing 69.6% of his passes for 599 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception, while his favourite targets Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson have combined for 365 receiving yards and four touchdowns so far.

Tom Brady has only got better with age, and the man known as the G.O.A.T has completed 65.1% of his passes this season with nine TD throws and only two interceptions.

Jaydon Mickens has done a terrific job returning kicks for the Bucs this year, but he is doubtful for Sunday after missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday with an abdomen problem, while Jason Pierre-Paul has a hand/shoulder issue and Steve McLendon has an undisclosed injury.

Running back Leonard Fournette is the team's top rusher with 84 yards on 20 carries, while Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown have combined for 305 receiving yards and three touchdowns and Brady's partner in crime, Rob Gronkowski, has 12 receptions.

Head To Head

Overall these teams have faced one another 26 times, with the Rams of LA and St. Louis coming out on top in 17 of those matchups.

These sides have split their last two encounters, with former Bucs kicker Matt Gay hitting the game-winning field last season, while Tampa set a franchise record for points in a regular-season game, winning 55-40 in 2019 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

These teams have been known to score a lot of points against each other, but there have also been some low-scoring affairs, including an 11-6 win by the St. Louis Rams in the 1999 NFC Championship game, after an overturned reception by Tampa led to what is now known as the Bert Emanuel rule.

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We say: Los Angeles Rams 28-31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This is easily the most fascinating matchup of week three in the NFL with two teams who can burn you but who also allow a lot of yards offensively.

As good as Stafford has been this year, it is hard to bet against Tom Brady, given how well he has started the season, and how quickly his team turn a game around.

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Tom Brady celebrates winning the Super Bowl on February 7, 2021
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