After watching Seattle lose to New England, the St. Louis Rams realize that they're right back in the hunt for the NFC West title. This is a really big game for them and they always play well at home.
St. Louis' passing game should have success against Tampa Bay's defense. The Rams can stretch the Bucs out with receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. They also have Marshall Faulk in the backfield as another threat. That makes it tough for Tampa Bay to play the type of coverage that they want to play.
Rams coach Mike Martz was getting lots of criticism the first few weeks of the season. The best way to stop that is to get Faulk his 20 carries. The Rams have been known to be pretty unstoppable when he touches the football.
Defensively, St. Louis will try to put a lot of pressure on Brian Griese and not give him room to throw. Griese played great last week while filling in for Chris Simms, but Griese has a history of being very, very average as a starting quarterback. I don't think that will change Monday night.
Faulk has had good success against Tampa Bay. Having a healthy receiving corps opens things up for him, so I would have to give the advantage to Faulk.
In the second matchup, Little has a tremendous advantage because of the crowd noise. The Rams move Little around, so both of Tampa Bay's tackles, Todd Steussie and Derrick Deese, will have a hard time. I've played with Steussie and considering that this is a Monday night game on the road, he's definitely good for two illegal-procedure penalties.
Also keep an eye on: Who's going to be Griese's favorite target? The Buccaneers' offensive line has not been able to establish the running game. So who will Griese throw to? Tim Brown, Charles Lee or Michael Clayton? The Bucs need one guy to step up and be the featured receiver.
The Buccaneers will win if: They can score points with their defense. The best possible way to do that is to blitz Rams quarterback Marc Bulger and get him to throw the ball into traffic.
The Rams will win if: They can get Faulk 20 carries. If they can do that, their receivers will get a lot of single coverage. It will also prevent coach Martz from getting pass-happy. St. Louis has problems when it doesn't run because then it's susceptible to turnovers through the air.
Prediction: St. Louis. Tampa Bay is down to its third-string quarterback and is playing on the road. The Bucs' offense is averaging fewer than two touchdowns a game, too. And there'll be no letdown by the Rams after last week's big comeback win in Seattle.
- Tampa Bay
- Marshall Faulk