The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cling to a slim chance of making the NFC playoffs as a wild card. While their chances look bleak after a week 13 loss, the Bucs will head into St. Louis trying to get back to .500. The Rams have regressed mightily since a solid start to the 2015 NFL season, but finally snapped an ugly five game skid last week and will be ready to battle at home in week 15.
The Bucs and Rams have a mild history, having met 22 times. The Rams hold the series edge with a 14-8 record and have also claimed the last three games, including a tight 19-17 win last season. These teams are somewhat familiar with each other with a meeting in three straight seasons, while they’ve even clashed in two NFC title games (1979 and 1999), with St. Louis winning both. While the Rams have held the clear upper hand recently and overall, the teams facing off on Thursday Night Football are very different than they were even a year ago. Both teams have new faces under center, while the Rams added star rookie rusher, Todd Gurley.
Buccaneers Preview (+2.5)
Tampa Bay has been a surprisingly solid team ever since getting housed by the Tennessee Titans in week one. Since then, the Bucs have gone 6-6 despite rolling with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. Tampa’s defense has been a little hit or miss and they’ve strangely gone away from the running game at times, but overall this has been a very balanced team that competes at a fairly high level in every regard. They lost a big game they needed last week and fell to 6-7, but they still aren’t completely out of the playoff hunt. That being said, getting a win on the road won’t be easy.
Did you know? Jameis Winston owns the NFL’s 5th-best Total QBR since Week 6. pic.twitter.com/DJHBI4m02j
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 17, 2015
Rams Preview (-2.5)
Unlike the Bucs, the Rams started fairly strong this year and have faded horribly down the stretch. St. Louis did rebound to get a big home win in week 14, but had lost their previous five games and had fallen out of playoff contention. The quarterback position has been a grand disappointment this year, which has the Rams struggling to produce on offense and ultimately heading back to the drawing board heading into the off-season. If they can get the ground game going with Todd Gurley, they can still contend with anyone. If not, extra pressure is placed on a now banged up defense (lost Robert Quinn for the year) and the Rams tend to fold. Going up against a pretty strong Buccaneers run defense, getting Gurley into a groove early is far from a guarantee.
On the NFL moneyline odds at WagerWeb is at -135 for the St Louis Rams and with the point spread the Buccaneers are getting +2.5 points.
There’s little doubt that the Buccaneers are the better team right now and have a lot more to play for at the moment. Unlike the Rams, they have someone competent under center, can also run the ball and also have a solid defense that typically doesn’t bury them. If you need some data to pull you one way or the other, considering that the Bucs are 1-4 ATS in their last five games, while the Rams 1-4-1 ATS in their last six contests.
Well, that wasn’t much help. The reality is this game is a total toss up, as most TNF games tend to be. It’s also a likely defensive battle where both teams try to rely on their ground games. Normally I’d give the home team the edge, but St. Louis basically has one guy to lean on.