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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cameron DaSilva

5 key matchups to watch in Rams vs. Buccaneers on Sunday

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The Rams and Buccaneers boast two star-studded rosters, though neither team has lived up to expectations through the first 8 weeks of the season. With marquee players on both sides, there are several big matchups to watch in Sunday’s game at Raymond James Stadium.

Here are five of the most important battles in Week 9 when the Rams and Bucs square off in Tampa Bay.

Jalen Ramsey vs. Mike Evans

The Rams probably won’t have Ramsey shadow Evans and will continue to move him around the field, but there’s no question Ramsey is the team’s best option for slowing down Evans. Troy Hill and Derion Kendrick are both much smaller cornerbacks, which makes it tough for them to match up with the 6-foot-5 Evans. Therefore, it should be Ramsey aligning across from Evans more often than not on Sunday.

In the divisional round game, Evans caught five passes for 97 yards and a touchdown against Ramey, being targeted nine times. In Week 3 last year, Evans only caught one pass for 14 yards on two targets against Ramsey. This should be a fun battle between two heavyweights.

Brian Allen vs. Vita Vea

Allen is dealing with knee swelling, missing practice Wednesday after returning from a knee injury in Week 8. Sean McVay didn’t make it seem like a big deal, so Allen should play on Sunday. The Rams will need him against Vea, one of the best nose tackles in the league.

He’s as powerful as they come, which will really test Allen’s knee and lower-body strength in pass protection and run blocking. Allen did a nice job against Vea in each of their two matchups last season, allowing only three total pressures against the Bucs, and the Rams will need him to play up to that level this weekend.

Leonard Floyd vs. Tristan Wirfs

Floyd woke up after the Rams’ bye, playing by far his best game of the season against the 49ers. He led the team with four pressures and two sacks, posting a PFF grade of 85.2 to lead the defense. Wirfs is an excellent pass blocker and has a grade of 89.7 in that department this season, so Floyd will be tested by a premier tackle on Sunday.

Aaron Donald is going to generate pressure regardless of who’s across from him, but he needs help from Floyd and the Rams’ other edge rushers. Floyd can have a big impact on this game if he can get after Tom Brady in the pocket.

Bobby Wagner vs. Leonard Fournette

A lot of the Buccaneers’ offense has gone through Fournette this season. He already has 149 total touches, which is 102 more than any other player on the team. He even ranks second with 37 receptions, though he’s averaging just 7.4 yards per catch.

Wagner, as well as Ernest Jones, will be active in this game not only covering Fournette as a receiver, but also attempting to stop him as a runner. Fournette isn’t the shiftiest or most elusive player, but he’s physical and breaks arm tackles.

Raheem Morris vs. Tom Brady

Morris won’t be on the field trying to sack Brady, but he will play a big role in game planning for the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Morris typically calls soft zones and doesn’t blitz much, but against the Buccaneers and Brady, he may want to change things up in coverage.

Brady likes to get the ball out quickly and if the Rams are going to play off the receivers at the line, Brady probably won’t have much trouble completing passes. The Rams need a good plan of attack for Brady and the Bucs offense, which is pass-heavy and often relies on quick throws to neutralize the pass rush.

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