Los Angeles Rams (1-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)
SERIES HISTORY: 22nd regular-season meeting. Rams lead series, 13-8. The Rams have beaten the Buccaneers each of the past four years. The Buccaneers' last win came in 2010 when they rallied from an 11-point deficit to win 18-17. The teams have met twice in the NFC Championship Game, with the Rams winning each time (1979 and 1999).
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Rams have had success against Tampa Bay, winning the last three meetings. The key this week -- at least defensively -- is getting consistent pressure on QB Jameis Winston and forcing him into mistakes. He threw four interceptions against the Arizona Cardinals while under duress, and the Rams would like to replicate that approach.
Offensively, the Rams will again try to establish the run with Todd Gurley -- although that's proven to be fruitless thus far the first two weeks. The Rams believe they are getting closer to busting him free, and feel they just missed on a couple of runs against the Seattle Seahawks. That said, it's time for Case Keenum and the passing game to join the party. If not, it could be another long day for Gurley and the Rams' offense.
The Buccaneers have to find more balance on offense, but the loss of RB Doug Martin won't help. Dirk Koetter will use both Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers and the Rams have given up more than 100 yards per game. The Buccaneers need to slow the Rams' pass rush, led by DT Aaron Donald, who wrecked the game for the Buccaneers in St. Louis last season.
QB Jameis Winston wasn't accurate enough last week, throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble. One pick was a Hail Mary at the end of the game and the other was a pick-six off a tipped pass. He still lacks any kind of rhythm with veteran WR Vincent Jackson. Since Evans draws the double teams, the Bucs need to get Jackson and Adam Humphries involved early.
Defensively, the Bucs have been beaten by the deep ball. They let a 51-yard bomb get over their heads at Arizona. Case Keenum had two deep passes to build a 14-0 lead at St. Louis in their game a year ago. But getting pressure on Keenum will be rough with an ankle injury limiting defensive end Robert Ayers.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Rams RB Todd Gurley vs. Buccaneers LB Kwon Alexander. Gurley is off to a slow start with only 98 yards in two games. Alexander had 17 tackles in the first game at Atlanta but only seven Sunday at Arizona.
--Buccaneers C Joe Hawley vs. Rams DT Aaron Donald. Hawley won't be asked to block Donald alone. He will have help from G Ali Marpet and G Kevin Pamphile.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Cornerback Troy Hill, a second-year undrafted free agent, replaced Coty Sensabaugh early in the win over Seattle. While the Seahawks went right after the unproven CB, completing a 53-yard pass to Tyler Lockett in the closing minute, he held his own while playing 44 of 67 defensive snaps. Hill should see plenty of time against Tampa Bay and will be under the gun just as much as he was last week.
FAST FACTS: Rams coach Jeff Fisher is 8-1 vs. the Buccaneers. ... Tampa QB Jameis Winston passed for 363 yards and two TDs in a 31-23 loss to the Rams last season. ... Rams QB Case Keenum completed 14 of 17 passes for 234 yards and 2 TDs in the last meeting. He has won six of his past nine starts.
PREDICTION: The Rams and their staunch defense figure to stretch their winning streak over the Bucs to five games.
OUR PICK: Rams, 20-17.