Tampa Bay has been eliminated from the playoffs, and the Rams will be barring a Christmas miracle. While each team is talented enough that it wouldn’t be shocking if either made the postseason next year, a higher draft pick could aid in that pursuit.
Of course, Jeff Fisher and Greg Schiano as first-year head coaches will want to build up as much job security as possible, so throwing the game isn’t an option (just in case you actually thought it was).
Here’s everything you need to know about this Week 16 matchup.
Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida
When: Sunday, December 23rd at 1 p.m. ET
Listen: Sirius XM Radio: 148 or online at Audio Pass
Spread: Tampa Bay (-3), according to Odds Shark
Las Vegas gets confused sometimes.
St. Louis has won three out of its last four games. Tampa Bay is on a three-game losing streak.
The Rams technically have a playoff spot to play for. The Buccaneers have nothing but pride to play for.
Tampa Bay won’t cover the spread because it won’t win.
Over/Under: 43.5, according to Odds Shark
Tampa Bay got shut out last week while St. Louis is averaging less than 20 points over its past three games. The Bucs offense could get hot again, but the Rams’ strong defense is more likely to keep them down and the points under 43.5.
St. Louis CB Cortland Finnegan is questionable with a thigh injury.
St. Louis RB Steven Jackson is questionable with an illness.
St. Louis DE Robert Quinn is questionable with an illness.
St. Louis LB James Laurinaitis is questionable with a back injury.
St. Louis G Harvey Dahl was placed on injured reserve with a bicep injury.
Tampa Bay LB Lavonte David is probable with a knee injury.
Tampa Bay DE Michael Bennett is probable with a shoulder injury.
Tampa Bay WR Mike Williams is probable with a wrist injury.
Fantasy Big Plays
St. Louis: QB Sam Bradford
In your fantasy championship and completely overpowered at the quarterback position? Bradford may just be a free agent in your league. And if he is, against the Bucs’ league-worst pass defense, he’s worth a sign and start for the win.
It isn’t like you’d be starting Bradford entirely for the matchup either. He racked up 377 passing yards and three touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings last week.
Tampa Bay: RB Doug Martin
St. Louis’ ninth-ranked pass defense is likely to give Josh Freeman fits, so the Bucs will go to the ground game early and often. After all, that’s where their most talented offensive weapon besides Vincent Jackson is.
Martin only rushed for 16 yards on nine carries last week, so you better believe that Tampa Bay made fixing its rushing attack a priority this week in practice.
Keys to a St. Louis Win
Shutting down Martin worked for the New Orleans Saints, so the Rams might as well give it a go.
New Orleans wouldn’t let the talented rookie back get anything going on the ground, it forced Freeman to win with his arm and he couldn’t do it. St. Louis should follow that blueprint.
Keys to a Tampa Bay Win
Making Bradford uncomfortable is the Bucs key to victory.
The Rams QB got hot last week, but for the majority of the season he’s played poorly. St. Louis’ offensive line is mediocre, so a consistent pass rush would get the job done.
Tampa Bay has been on such a slump that there’s no reason to believe it’ll break out of it against the hungry Rams, especially after the Bucs’ disaster last week.
St. Louis, 20-17
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.