The Buccaneers (7-3) host the Rams (6-3) in an NFC showdown at Raymond James Stadium on Monday Night Football to close out Week 11. The Bucs are -4.5 favorites (-220 ML), and the over/under has been set at 48.
Both these teams have suffered from multiple personalities this season. Quarterback Tom Brady and Buccaneers have manhandled multiple winning teams, including the Packers, Panthers, and Raiders, but they got outscored 20-19 by the offensively-inept Bears in Week 5 and were swept by the Saints by a combined score of 72-26. Meanwhile, Jared Goff and the Rams have taken care of business most of the season, coming within four points in Buffalo to a 5-0 start and beating the division-rival Seahawks a few weeks ago, yet they have faltered against the injury-ravaged 49ers and upstart Dolphins.
Who will prevail in this all-important NFC clash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde teams? BetQL has expert analysis, top trends, up-to-the-minute line movements, and full game previews for this and every game of the NFL season. Our NFL Best Bet Model runs simulations for each game, arriving at detailed outcome projections and best bets. We can tell you right now that the Model likes the final score to equal UNDER 48 points, projecting the total at closer to 47 points. Keep reading for the Model’s full projections, as well as a comprehensive game outlook and list of top betting predictions.
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Rams-Buccaneers Betting Preview
The Rams continue to be an upper-echelon team in the NFC, thanks in large part to its dominant defense. Coming into Week 11, LA had surrendered the second-fewest points (168), the second-fewest total yards (2,668), and the third-fewest first downs (167). The Rams rank first in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (nine) and average points allowed per defensive possession (1.51). They sit in the top 10 in both passing yards allowed and rushing yards allowed.
Perennial All-Pro Aaron Donald, likely a top contender for Defensive Player of the Year once again, has unsurprisingly led the charge with an NFC-leading nine sacks. LA has a total of 31 QB takedowns, just one behind Tampa Bay. Micah Kiser serves as the leading tackler of the linebacking unit, and safeties John Johnson and Taylor Rapp, as well as the terrific trio of cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill, and Darious Williams (the latter of which has four picks) comprise the Rams’ elite secondary.
Defensive coordinator Brandon Staley’s unit will have its hands full with the Buccaneers’ vast array of offensive weapons, especially out wide against receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and tight end Rob Gronkowski. Donald and his comrades will have to dominate the line of scrimmage like they did in their huge 23-16 win over Seattle in Week 10. The Rams took down Seahawks QB Russell Wilson six times for 28 total sack yards, and their constant presence in the pocket kept Wilson from throwing a touchdown for the first time all year. L.A. also picked off the MVP contender twice while holding him to a season-low 57.0 QB rating. Seattle receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, two of the leading receivers on the season, were limited to 99 total yards on seven catches. Brady will suffer a similar fate if the Bucs cannot contain LA at the line of attack, as Tampa has lost all three games in which Brady has been sacked three times.
There’s no denying L.A. has an elite defensive unit, but just like the Buccaneers, the Rams can only go as far as their quarterback takes them. Jared Goff has had a better campaign than his post-Super Bowl-loss hangover season last year, but he’s nowhere near where coach Sean McVay needs him to be. With Darrell Henderson Jr. now leading the backfield Todd Gurley used to dominate, and Brandin Cooks making plays in Houston now, it’s on Goff to drive this offense.
He has a healthy group of receiving options to work with, and Henderson and Malcolm Brown have helped LA score 14 rushing TDs (tied for second in the NFL). But Goff has been mediocre in the red zone. The Rams only score a touchdown 62.9 percent of the time they reach their opponents’ 20-yard line, ranking 16th in the league.
Goff needs to trust his veteran receivers more. Cooper Kupp, who leads L.A. with 53 catches and 577 receptions, only has two touchdowns. Robert Woods, who has caught 70 percent of his passes and scored four times, only has 60 targets in nine starts. Josh Reynolds and rookie Van Jefferson flash at times and then disappear again. Tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett look like dominant red-zone threats in one game, then fade into obscurity the next.
LA has constructed a roster around Goff that can easily go all the way as long as he puts the pieces together and confidently executes. That truth was more than apparent in the Rams’ upset of the division-leading Seahawks and their domination of the Bears 24-10 two games prior. But then there’s the Nov. 1 hiccup in Miami and the mid-October disaster in San Francisco against the injury-plagued 49ers.
Great teams with great quarterbacks don’t suffer such bad losses. So, just like in Tampa, the question posed by many Rams fans must be: “Is my QB capable of being great enough for a long enough stretch to win my team a Super Bowl?”
The Bucs are built quite similarly to the Rams. They have a fantastic defense under coordinator Todd Bowles, a decent one-two backfield punch of Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette, and a receiving arsenal with as many weapons as any team in football. The pieces are in place to win against anyone as long as three-time MVP and first-year Buc Tom Brady plays winning football.
Brady has looked horrendous in both of Tampa’s meetings with the Saints. And he literally forgot how many downs he had at the end of a tough 20-19 loss to the offensively challenged Bears in Week 5, resulting in a game-icing turnover on downs. He was the central factor of the Bucs’ three losses, just as he has been the main catalyst in their seven wins.
That may seem overstated or it may appear to be an oversimplification, but the numbers back it up. In Tampa’s three losses, Brady combined to throw three total touchdowns and five interceptions while averaging 233.6 passing yards and a 68.5 QB rating. In its seven wins, he has thrown 20 touchdowns and two interceptions, averaging 291.1 passing yards and a 110.7 QB rating. He’s also been sacked three times in each of the Bucs’ three losses and only five times total across their seven wins.
Not surprisingly, super-talented big man Mike Evans leads all Buccaneers’ receivers in catches (40), yards (514), and touchdowns (eight). When Chris Godwin (finger) has seen the field, he has caught 82.9 percent of his 41 targets, good for 412 yards and two scores. Scotty Miller has played the part of Brady’s trusty slot-man. And tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady’s longtime pal and teammate during three of Brady’s six Super Bowl wins, has shaken off his retirement rust, scoring in four of his past five games.
Perhaps most frightening to the rest of the NFL, Antonio Brown started to look more comfortable with the offense last week. Brady connected with the four-time All-Pro receiver on seven-of-eight targets for 69 total yards in the Bucs’ 46-23 drubbing of the Panthers in Carolina. Entering the weekend, Tampa ranked fifth in passing touchdowns (23), sixth in points (296), and ninth in passing yards (2,646, or 264.6 per game).
As for the running game, which seems interchangeable based on coach Bruce Arians’ mood, Ronald Jones might have finally supplanted Leonard Fournette as the Bucs’ bell-cow back. The third-year USC product rushed for 192 yards in Tampa’s dominant 46-23 win over Carolina last week, highlighted by a 98-yard TD (the longest run in the NFL this season). Jones has 730 rushing yards and five TDs, while Fournette has 396 scrimmage yards as the pass-catcher and change-of-pace back (he has caught 80 percent of Brady’s looks).
When Brady and his boys get out to a lead, their defense usually preserves it. Coming into Week 11, the Buccaneers ranked first in rushing yards allowed (1,039, 103.9 per game) and third in total yards allowed (3,003, 300.3 per game). They have the second-most takeaways in the league with 17 (12 picks, five fumbles recovered).
Like the Rams, the Bucs are what you might call plentiful at all three levels. Edge rushers Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston have combined for 13.5 sacks and 36 QB hits. Elite linebackers Devin White, Shaquil Barrett, and Lavonte David have combined for 201 tackles and 11.5 sacks, and Tampa’s young but solid secondary features breakout rookie Antoine Winfield Jr. and third-year stud Carlton Davis, the latter of whom leads the NFC in picks (four) and passes defensed (14).
Tampa Bay will have a chance to recover its reputation among the national audience this evening. Brady and the Bucs fell hard 38-3 against the Saints in Sunday Night Football two weeks ago and barely outscored the woeful Giants 25-23 six days earlier on Monday Night Football. They also lost their only Thursday Night Football matchup 20-19 to the Bears in Week 5 when Brady mistook fourth down for third down during his attempted game-winning drive. Tampa is 5-5 against the spread this season (2-2 at home), and 4-4 ATS as a favorite (1-2 as a home favorite).
We like the Rams to stay in this game right until the end, with the BetQL Best Bet Model putting a three-star rating on LA covering the +4.5. The Model points out that the Rams are 14-5 against conference opponents over the past two years, and the Bucs have not been impressive against the spread this season. The Model also likes the Rams to cover +3 at halftime (but it only lists that bet with a one-star rating).
However, we’re going with the Buccaneers at home on the moneyline -220. Consider the UNDER, too—these are two of the stingiest defenses in the NFL, so there’s a low probability this one flirts with 50 total points like 51 percent of sharp money suggests. It’s also worth noting that L.A. has not yet announced who will even be kicking its field goals this evening, with Matt Gay and Austin MacGinnis battling to replace the injured Kai Forbath. Give us Tampa Bay by a game-winning Ryan Succup field goal, 25-22.
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