Rams vs. Buccaneers: 7 things to know for Week 3 matchup

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Arguably the two best teams in the NFL will square off on Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium, with the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers visiting the Los Angeles Rams. It’s a rematch of their Week 11 tilt from last season, a game the Rams won 27-24 on the road.

The Buccaneers are much better now than they were then, so the Rams and their new-look roster will be tested in this early-season showdown.

Here are seven facts and stats to know for Sunday’s game.

This will be Tom Brady’s first NFL game in Los Angeles

It’s hard to believe considering he’s played 348 games in his career, but Brady has never played an NFL game in Los Angeles. Sunday will be a first for the California native when he takes the field at SoFi Stadium against the Rams. He’s played in San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego, but never Los Angeles. That’s because the Rams were in St. Louis during the majority of his career before moving to L.A. in 2016. He and the Patriots played the Rams in 2016 at Gillette Stadium, and New England visited the Rams at SoFi Stadium last season – but Brady was with Tampa Bay, of course.

Rams have won six of their last seven against the Bucs

Dating back to 2012, the Rams are an impressive 6-1 against the Buccaneers in their last seven meetings. Most recently, they beat the Bucs on the road last season, 27-24. The Buccaneers won a shootout in 2019 thanks, 55-40, thanks to Jameis Winston’s 385 yards and four touchdowns, but that was the last time Tampa Bay beat L.A. The Rams and Buccaneers both looked very different from 2012-2019 than they do now, so their past results are not an indication of what will happen on Sunday.

Tampa Bay hasn’t lost a game since Week 12 of last season

It’s easy to forget the Buccaneers weren’t all that impressive in the first 12 weeks of the 2020 season. They dropped three of four games before the bye, losing to the Saints, Rams and Chiefs, sinking their record to 7-5. Then, they went on a run, winning their next eight games all the way to a Super Bowl victory over the Chiefs. Being 2-0 this season, Tampa Bay has now won 10 straight games dating back to last season.

Rams and Bucs are in top 3 of DVOA

Football Outsider’s DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) is a valuable metric to show how good a team is compared to the rest of the NFL. It should come as no surprise that the Rams and Buccaneers are both in the top three of DVOA so far this season. The Rams are second with a rating of 43.0%, while the Buccaneers are third at 41.1%. The Panthers are incredibly No. 1 for the first time in franchise history, with a DVOA rating of 47.5%. The Rams and Buccaneers are also the top two teams in USA TODAY’s power rankings this week, with the Bucs first and Los Angeles second. So this is kind of a big matchup. https://twitter.com/QBsMVP/status/1440666290423693334

Matthew Stafford has good track record vs. Buccaneers

Stafford has played five games against the Buccaneers and owns a 3-2 record against them. He’s completed 71.3% of his passes in those games – the second-best rate against any team he’s faced – and has a passer rating of 98.2. His 10 touchdown passes are the eighth-most he has against any team, though he does have seven interceptions and two fumbles in only five starts. Stafford has averaged 262.2 yards per game against the Buccaneers, a number he’s likely to surpass in Sunday’s game at home.

Rams are only team in NFL with 2 opening-drive TDs this year

According to the Rams’ media guide for Week 3, Los Angeles is the only team in the NFL that has scored a touchdown on its opening drive in each of the first two games of this season. Coincidentally, both of those touchdowns came after their opponent reached the red zone on the opening drive of the game and nearly took an early lead. The offense has looked borderline unstoppable in the first quarter of games, which is partly because of the game script that Sean McVay puts together for Matthew Stafford. A strong start against the Bucs will go a long way.

Buccaneers have allowed 3rd-most passing yards, 2nd-fewest rushing yards

Teams have quickly figured out the best way to attack this Buccaneers defense. The Cowboys and Falcons threw the ball a ton against Tampa Bay, totaling 106 pass attempts in their matchups with the Bucs. That’s the most pass attempts any defense has faced this season, 15 more than the rest of the NFL. On the other hand, Tampa Bay has only faced 38 rush attempts, fourth-fewest in the NFL. The Bucs rank 30th in passing yards allowed and second in rushing yards against. They’re only allowing 6.3 net yards per pass attempts and 3.0 yards per carry, so regardless of what offenses do, Tampa Bay has been relatively effective.

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