By Shawn Lealos
Last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the worst record in the NFL. Thanks to that distinction, they received the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and used that pick to draft quarterback Jameis Winston, who now has the Buccaneers dreaming of the playoffs. This year, the St. Louis Rams continue to struggle and much of the problem is the lack of a legitimate quarterback, and they are looking at a high playoff pick once again. Here is a look at this week’s Thursday Night Football matchup.
The Resurgent Buccaneers
The fact that a team with a 6-7 record is getting such solid reviews is because they are a much improved football team in 2015. Last year, they won two games and struggled in every aspect of the sport. This year, they have only won six games but still sit tied for third place in the race for the two Wild Card spots. They not only have a growing star with their rookie quarterback, but their running game has suddenly come to life with Doug Martin enjoying a rejuvenated career. This is a Tampa Bay team that will get better as the years roll on.
St. Louis And The Search For A Quarterback
What changed the outlook in Tampa Bay was the addition of a legitimate quarterback. The St. Louis Rams might have made a mistake in the offseason when they traded Sam Bradford for Nick Foles. For one thing, Bradford was never a bad quarterback; he was just injury prone because the Rams had no offensive line talent. When healthy, and protected, he played better than Nick Foles has even dreamed of playing this season. The reason the Rams have only five wins is because they have played four different quarterbacks and only Sean Mannion has a QB rating over 70.
Todd Gurley Vs. Doug Martin
Last year, it appeared that Doug Martin’s career as a starting running back had come to an end. In 2012, his rookie season, Martin ran for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns. The next two years combined, he ran for 950 yards with three touchdowns. However, he has proven this year that it was all possibly based on injuries. He has rebounded nicely and has 1,214 yards and five touchdowns through 13 games and ranks second behind only Adrian Peterson. St. Louis has a running back star of their own with rookie Todd Gurley. He ranks fourth in the NFL with 975 yards and eight touchdowns and has five 100+ yard games this season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have always prided themselves on their defense and this year they rank 11th in the NFL in total defense. While they struggle against the pass, ranked 21st, they excel against the run, ranked a nice eighth. Since St. Louis has no passing attack, this is a solid matchup for the Bucs. With names like Kwon Alexander, Gerald McCoy, and Lavonte David on the defense, they will always have a chance to win. On the other side of the field, coach Jeff Fisher has always prided himself on his defense. Despite names like James Laurinaitis on his defense, the Rams rank 19th in the NFL in total defense and 21st against the run.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos.